Paleolithic Dentistry: Treating Cavities 14,000 Years Ago, Ouch!

prehistoric human teeth photo
Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

How many times have you went to the dentist for a procedure and thanked your lucky stars for the wonderful invention of anesthetic? If you have amazing, healthy teeth, probably not too many times. However, if you have fallen victim to genes with poor dental inclinations, or if you really love sweet stuff, you have probably been very grateful for the modern advancements in medicine. Unfortunately, if you grew up during the paleolithic period, paleolithic dentistry didn’t allow you such luxuries as local anesthetic or proper tools even.

Paleolithic Dentistry Was a Pain

These were the woes of the 25 year-old male, whose skeleton was discovered in northern Italy, in 1988. After holding onto his remains for almost three decades, researchers have now decided that the holes in his teeth are not just from cavities, but from dental work to treat those caries. In the study, published by Nature Publishing Group, researchers explain the process the paleolithic peoples used for caring for cavities, at least in this case. The description is cringe-worthy, but vital to realize how dentistry was a part of the paleolithic era.

Microlith tools, similar to what would have been used on the molar of the skeleton.

To begin, the paleolithic peoples did not have the perfectly formed tools that we have today. As in the case of the skeleton, instead of having sharp, metal tools and drills to dig out the decay of a rotting tooth, researchers found that they used flint microlith points instead. Using these tools, the person who performed the dental work dig out the area of decay. The original report says that, based upon the striations of the teeth, the dental worker used motions similar to those utilized when cutting meat.The report lists several different directions of striations which seems to mean the microlith tools were used in a haphazard effort to further their dentistry repertoire.  The researchers also hypothesize that after grinding out the decay in the tooth, the hole was then filled with beeswax — that part probably wasn’t so bad.

Apparently, dental hygiene was of at least some importance to the people of the paleolithic age. However, their practices would only be fit for horror movies in the modern day of technology and anesthetic. At least the neolithic era, as the article notes, had a sound method: drilling. However, you probably shouldn’t assume that would be any less painful.

The Good News for You

Luckily, you enjoy the wonderful life of the 21st century. So the next time you visit Dr. Dan Matthews for gum re-contouring, dental implants or a complete smile makeover, rest assured that your comfort is of the greatest priority to him. His methods and procedures are designed to keep you as relaxed as possible through any procedure you may seek. That’s just good, modern practice!

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

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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