Dental Tips Blog

Dec
1

World’s Oldest Dental Filling

Posted in Fillings

Modern day dentists use drills and gold, amalgam, composite and porcelain for dental fillings, crowns, and other methods of restoring teeth that are damaged or decayed. But did you ever wonder what they used way back in the Stone Age?

Scientists think they might know.

In recently published papers, researchers at Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy concluded that a human jaw found more than 100 years ago in Slovenia has evidence of the earliest known dental filling. Careful analysis using modern scientific equipment shows the substance is beeswax.

The jaw, which had been sitting in a museum in Italy for years and was newly analyzed, dates to the Neolithic period about 6,500 years ago.  It is believed to be that of a man in his late 20s to early 30s.  The filled tooth was a left canine and had a deep vertical crack in the enamel down into the dentin, the softer layer of the tooth.

Researchers could not conclude whether the tooth was filled before or after death.  If it was filled prior to death, they say, it was probably done to relieve pain from a deep crack likely caused by a non-food related activity like weaving.  But if the filling was done after death, it was likely done as part of some sort of death ritual and the tooth likely cracked as it dried out post mortem.

The discovery is thought to be the earliest evidence to date of dental fillings for palliative care. Scientists had previously found evidence of the practice of dentistry from a 9,000-year-old grave site in Pakistan, but had never found actual evidence of a tooth filling.

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