Scientists originally thought that dentistry didn’t develop until humans settled down and began farming. The resulting diet of high carbohydrate grains and similar foods was thought to have led to increased cavities. But researchers have found evidence that seems to indicate that dentistry goes back much farther than that. Archaeologists have discovered that Stone Age Neolithic humans performed dental procedures — and pretty well, considering the tools and knowledge they had at the time. Read on to discover why it’s believed dentistry began in the Stone Age.

Dentistry Had Its Beginnings in the Stone Age

A jawbone fossil discovered over 100 years ago was recently re-examined using 3D technology. A large crack in a canine was discovered, and beeswax had been used to fill the crack. Both the beeswax and tooth were radiocarbon dated to be about 6,500 years old, and it was probable that the beeswax was used while the individual was still living. This was thought at the time to be the oldest known use of a filling.

Then in 2006, archaeologists documented the discovery of 9,000-year-old teeth in Pakistan that had holes drilled in the molars. Researchers believe a small bow was used to drive flint drill tips into the teeth to remove decayed tissue — possibly to relieve pain. In reenactments using similar tools, it took close to a minute of drilling to reach the same depth on the teeth found, making the drilling process itself probably very painful, since anesthesia, and even the discovery of alcohol, to dull the pain was thousands of years in the future.

Moving the Timeline Even Farther Back

Recent findings indicate that dentistry techniques go back even farther, to 14,000 years ago. Teeth from six Neolithic people were discovered in Northern Italy, and two teeth showed signs of having been scraped, probably by a sharp stone, to remove tissue. At this time, it is believed that this is the earliest known evidence of fillings.

While researchers point out that it is possible that the holes were made to insert jewelry, the area was covered in a tar-like substance called bitumen, used by Stone Age people to attach tools to handles. The use of bitumen makes it far more likely that this is the earliest example of treating decay with fillings, although researchers think the early dentists did learn their craft from artisans skilled at making beads.

Prevention Is Still the Best Medicine

Stone Age people had to go through those painful procedures because they didn’t know about good oral healthcare. Today, we know that brushing and flossing daily, along with making regular dental appointments, goes a long way to avoiding decay. If you need to make an appointment for a problem, or it’s time for a checkup, call us today. Your comfort is a top priority, and we promise our tools and methods aren’t anything like those from the Stone Age!

Best regards,
Dr. Sehnert