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Researchers Find Evidence of History's First Filling

Posted on 9/25/2015 by Tigard Family Dental
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While the type of modern dental care you receive from Tigard dentist began to take shape in the U.S. shortly after World War II ended, the practice of dentistry actually dates back far beyond what most people would ever suspect.

Ancient texts tell of early forms of dentistry that date back all the way to the time of the Egyptian pharaohs. Back in the those days, tooth pain was considering the work of tiny invisible worms that healers at the time believed would burrow their way into teeth and cause the discomfort we know today as the result of cavities.

While the myth of tooth worms eventually gave away to more scientific explanations, it seems that some early forms of dentistry more closely resembled what dentists uses today.

According to a large team of researchers from Australia, Germany and Italy, new evidence has emerged that suggests the world's oldest attempt to fix a cavity has been found. In a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers describe their effort to study the tooth from a 14,000 year old human skeleton first discovered in 1988, and the techniques they employed to show that the marks found on the skeleton's teeth were the result of human manipulation.

Dentist in Tigard – A Historic Discovery

Cavities develop when parts of teeth suffer from the effects of decay. Tigard Family Dental patients who suffer from cavities receive advanced care from dentists that require drilling out the decayed matter and filling the resulting hole with a hard material that will stay in place and prevent further decay or damage from occurring.

People living thousands of years ago were not so fortunate. They either suffered from the discomfort of an untreated cavity or they underwent cavity manipulation from an elder using a sharp piece of flint, according to researchers who examined the teeth of the ancient skeleton uncovered nearly 30 years ago. However, no one noticed at the time when the skeleton was first discovered that a cavity in one the teeth appeared to have received treatment or repair. The skeleton dates back from between 13,800 to 14,100 years ago and the approximate age of the individual at his death was placed at 25.

After noticing that the cavity appeared to have been cleaned, researchers decided to make a more thorough examination. They used an electron microscope to study the surface and interior of the cavity and found evidence of grooves and ridges that appeared to be the result of scraping. The team then conducted several experiments on teeth that were subjected to wood, rocks and other abrasive materials to see if they could replicate the ridges and grooves they discovered in the ancient tooth – marks made by sharpened flint, they discovered, matched almost exactly. The evidence suggests that the young man received the first discovered example of corrective dentistry. In other words, someone had apparently dug around in his cavity with a sharpened piece of flint in an attempt to remove the decayed material and to relieve his discomfort.

This latest finding predates other examples of early forms of dentistry, such as fillings made of beeswax that date back roughly 6,500 years ago and evidence of dental drilling that dates back over 9,000 years ago. This new research suggests a major milestone in cavity manipulation and demonstrates that early civilizations combined creative thinking and manual dexterity to alleviate the suffering caused by tooth decay.

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