History Connection: Bluetooth, Vikings, and Dentistry

viking photo
Photo by hans s

Here’s a fun one: did you know that your Bluetooth headset is named after a 10th century Danish king?

In what may be one of the coolest points connecting ourselves with the past, the Bluetooth wireless system was named for one King Harald Gormsson. As a ruler of Denmark (and sometimes Norway) Mr. Gormsson was known for consolidating the throne’s control over Scandinavia, uniting Denmark and Norway under one flag, and converting his subjects to Christianity.

Also, notably, he was called ‘Bluetooth.’

The reason for this isn’t certain. Some sources say that he loved blueberries, and ate them to such a point that his teeth were stained blue. In our dental opinion, that’s unlikely. Blueberries can cause stained teeth, but in case you’re looking for a fun new color for your mouth, you should know that blueberries won’t do the trick. The best you’ll get is oxidized discoloration and maybe some yellowing.

Blueberries won’t actually turn your teeth blue

More likely, Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormsson suffered from dental discoloration due to a damaged tooth that became blackened. In his contemporary Danish, his teeth were described as ‘blár,’ which is closer in meaning to ‘dark-colored’ or ‘blue-black’ than just a blue set of teeth. Of course, there’s no way to know for sure where the moniker came from, but this is a great hint that even Kings suffer from dental issues.

So what would make his teeth blue-black? Well, it turns out that internal damage–from physical trauma, or some kind of dental decay–can cut off the blood supply to your tooth. With tissue damage to the interior of your tooth, and a lack of healthy blood cells, the soft tissue beneath your enamel can begin to die. This results in discoloration, pain, and the potential for infection.

King Bluetooth may have suffered from a ‘dead tooth’

It’s possible that King Gormsson had one or more teeth that were damaged to such a point that they became discolored. Today, we would prescribe either a porcelain veneer, or–if it was bad enough–a full root canal to relieve and remove any potential infections in the affected teeth. Of course, back in 975 CE, these procedures would have been completely unavailable. The most they had going for them (according to some sources) was the fact that Scandinavian diets were low in sugars, and therefore dental issues were much less prevalent than they are today!

If your teeth are turning blue, you may want to get them checked out. Even if you’re a Scandinavian king, discolored teeth are no joke– they could be a sign of a big issue, with worse problems down the line. Make sure to contact Dr. Matthews as soon as possible to keep your teeth as white as they should be!

Dan Matthews DDS
Dan Matthews Dan Matthews DDS The Park at Eanes Creek,
4407 Bee Cave Road
Building 2, Suite 221
Austin, Texas, 78746
(512) 452-2273
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