Amazing Facts About Ancient Tooth Care from Our Charleston Dentist

It may surprise you to learn that people have been taking care of—or trying to take care of—their teeth for thousands of years. In today’s post, our Charleston dentist shares some interesting facts you may not have known about ancient dentistry, which will probably help you appreciate modern dentistry all the more!

Cavemen Drilled Teeth 

Scientists in Pakistan made an amazing discovery when they found 9 skeletons that were 9,000 years old. The specimens’ teeth had holes in the molars, which the scientists determined had been “drilled” with stone tools. Chewing wear on the teeth showed that all “patients” had survived the procedure and, presumably, gone on to live cavity-free lives. It probably wasn’t any fun, but it worked!

The First Filling Was Made of Wax 

Modern dental cavities are filled with metal or tooth-colored resin, but prehistoric people used something far less durable—beeswax. Researchers studying a site in Slovenia found a 6500-year-old human canine that contained remnants of a beeswax filling. Laboratory analysis showed that the unfortunate patient had suffered from a vertical crack in the tooth, which exposed the tooth’s sensitive dentin. The beeswax may have been added to help reduce the individual’s pain and sensitivity.

The First Toothbrush was Chinese

The first toothbrush that we know of was invented in China during the Tang Dynasty, or the year 1498 in the Gregorian calendar. This early toothbrush prototype featured stiff, coarse hairs taken from the back of a hog’s neck, attached to either a bone or bamboo handle. Boar bristles were used up until 1938, when nylon bristles were introduced. Before the toothbrush, many ancient cultures around the world used a “chew stick”, a stick with frayed ends, to clean their teeth.

Ancient People Wore Braces 

Archaeologists have also discovered mummies with metal bands wrapped around their teeth, as well as “braces” made of catgut. Archeological evidence has showed that the Etruscans buried their dead with dental appliances in their mouths to support the teeth during the Afterlife, and entombed Romans have been found with gold wire bound around their teeth. In addition, both Hippocrates and Aristotle contemplated ways to fix misaligned teeth, according to their surviving writings.

The Mayans Wore Jewels In Their Teeth

Ancient dentistry wasn’t limited to restorations; cosmetic dentistry was practiced, too, most notably by the ancient Mayans. Wealthy persons would have small depressions drilled into the teeth, and small ornamental stones, such as jade and emerald, were adhered with a mix of tree resin and crushed bones. What’s truly incredible about these ornamentations is that the dentists who made them knew how to drill into the teeth without harming the dental pulp inside.

Get Expert Dental Care with Our Charleston Family Dentist

At Lowcountry Dental Arts, we will probably not be able to outfit your teeth with emeralds and jade, but will provide much better care than ancient peoples had access to! If you need a dental exam, dental restoration, or other dental service in Charleston SC, stop by and see us at our office, or click here to schedule an appointment.