Strange Dentistry Practices of the Stone Age

Going to the dentist has traditionally been a dreaded activity for adults and kids alike. But until recently, we weren’t aware of just how long people have been practicing dentistry, nor their strange methods of care.

Thirteen-thousand years is a long time for a profession to have been continuously practiced. It was previously believed that humans started practicing dentistry 5000 years later than the new findings suggest. Evidence from the teeth of a 14,000-year-old human shows a sharp tool was used to carve out dead tissue from teeth. It’s a revolutionary discovery out of northern Italy that has anthropologists excited.

Stone Age dentistry was not known to exist until now, but it’s possible that there could have been more of these dentists around. Dentistry in an era before established farming and agriculture is remarkable when taking into account that cavities were not seen nearly as often as they are today. In those days, sugar and citric acid, things that cause decay and erosion, were not so easily attained.

Along with picking out decaying tissue, these teeth are a testament to the fact that a form of crude oil was used to close up the emptied cavities, possibly to prevent future infections. We know that the alteration of the shapes of teeth was possible, and may have been a cultural practice that introduced bacteria that cause these infections. Also found on the teeth was evidence of flaking and chipping, suggesting that perhaps the dentist had attempted to widen the hole to more easily remove what they needed to. Ouch!

What we’ve learned from this remarkable discovery rewrites what we thought we knew of prehistoric human behavior, and could open the door to equally revolutionary discoveries.

[Source: Science News for Students]