Are these the oldest dental fillings?

We like to think dental science is relatively new, but this discovery shows the practice might have been going on longer than originally thought…

An amazing recent archaeological discovery has found what is thought to be the earliest known dental fillings. Two 13,000-year-old upper front teeth were found in northern Italy filled with bitumen.

The scientists are able to tell the remains are evidence of fillings because each tooth features a large hole which reaches into the tooth’s pulp.

Looking even closer at the teeth, tiny marks are visible, which suggest cavities had been present and were ‘drilled’ out. However, in the absence of the dentist’s drill, it’s thought tiny tools made of stone were used.

Not only did the teeth contain bitumen to remove pain and prevent food from getting into the cavity, they also contained hair and plant extracts which appear to have been added to the tooth at the same time!

So why bitumen and plants? Well Claudio Tuniz, from the University of Wollongong in Australia, thinks they might have been used as an antiseptic.

The finding is remarkable because they show evidence of therapeutic dental practices thousands of years prior to the production of cereals and honey which is generally blamed for a rise in tooth decay.

During the Upper Paleolithic period of the Ice Age, when the owner of these teeth is thought to have been alive, swathes of new people were arriving in Europe from the East. It’s thought they could have brought new foods with them which may have led to cavities and the need to practice an early form of dentistry.

While these are the first examples of dental fillings, the first known uses of dental treatment were found on teeth linked to another site in Italy thought to be 14,000 years old.

Modern-day dental treatment

Thankfully, we don’t offer Ice Age treatments in our Notting Hill dentist surgery! At Number 18 Dental, our dentists use minimally invasive dentistry and the latest technology to ensure our patients are as comfortable as possible. Contact us today to book your next dental appointment.

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