Modern dentistry dates back to the late 17th century when French surgeon, Pierre Fauchard (the father of modern dentistry) recognised the links between sugar and tooth decay and developed the first instruments for filling cavities. It might come as something of a surprise then to discover that stone age man was already carrying out dental work over 10,000 years ago.
Discovery in Northern Italy
The discovery of a 13,000-year-old skeleton in Riparo Fredian, near Lucca in Northern Italy has set the paleoanthropological world alight. According to researchers, who recently analysed two holes in the incisors, the skeleton contains the earliest example of dental work. The research revealed that the holes showed signs of wear with some kind of primitive tool which has led them to believe that the cavities were worked to get at infected or dying pulp tissue within the tooth, probably to relieve pain.
Further investigation into the cavities found traces of bitumen (used today to fill pot holes) which does seem to strongly indicate that this ancient human was a dental patient who underwent one of the world’s earliest filling procedure.
Not the only evidence of early dentistry
Whilst this discovery is clearly important, it’s actually not the only evidence of early man attempting primitive dental work. A 6,500-year-old tooth from Slovenia also shows evidence of fillings and there’s even a 14,000-year-old tooth with evidence of a cavity being widened but in this case there is no sign of filling.
The reason for the dental work? Well it’s mainly the same as today. As diets changed in the Palaeolithic period to include less proteins and fats to more carbohydrates and sugars then it heralded the onset of tooth decay. So, if you’re trying to lose weight and you’re considering the paleo diet you might just want to consider the potential effects on your oral health.