Stone Age hunter-gatherers tackled their cavities with a sharp tool and tar | Science News

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Stone Age hunter-gatherers tackled their cavities with a sharp tool and tar

Tooth find adds to evidence that some form of dentistry has existed for at least 14,000 years

By
11:11am, April 7, 2017
ancient tooth decay

DENTAL WORK  Seen from above in computer reconstructions, cavities in two human teeth dating to around 13,000 years ago contain signs of an ancient treatment for tooth decay. Marks on the inner walls of each cavity were made by a pointed stone tool used to remove infected tissue, researchers propose.

Stone Age dentists didn’t drill and fill cavities. They scraped and coated them.

Two teeth from a person who lived in what’s now northern Italy between 13,000 and 12,740 years ago bear signs of someone having scoured and removed infected soft, inner tissue. The treated area was then covered with bitumen, a sticky, tarlike substance Stone Age folks used to attach stone tools to handles (SN Online: 12/12/08), says a team led by biological anthropologists Gregorio Oxilia and Stefano Benazzi, both of the University of Bologna in Italy.

The find indicates that techniques for removing infected parts of teeth developed thousands of years before carbohydrate-rich farming diets made tooth decay more common, the researchers report online March 27 in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

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