Gentle Dental of Collingdale
14-20 MacDade Boulevard, Suite A, Collingdale, PA 19023

Did prehistoric humans have better teeth than us?


Today, humans have access to dental floss, toothpaste and toothbrushes, but back in prehistoric times, men and women had little to rely on when it comes to oral hygiene.

According to a recent study published in Nature Genetics, ancient hunter-gatherer clans had better teeth than we do today.  This finding has been linked to changes in human diets over time.

Prehistoric teeth
“Hunter-gatherers had really good teeth,” says Alan Cooper, Ph.D., director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. “[But] as soon as you get to farming populations, you see this massive change. Huge amounts of gum disease. And cavities start cropping up.”

According to Cooper and his team, the gradual shift in human diets from meat, nuts and vegetables to carbohydrates and sugar effectively altered the makeup of bacteria in the mouths of modern men and women, National Public Radio reported.

Researchers examined the teeth found in 34 prehistoric skulls and determined that, specifically as ancient man took to tilling the fields and focusing on agriculture in favor of hunting, particular forms of harmful bacteria began to infiltrate human mouths.

Disease-causing pathogens specializing in devouring carbohydrates helped deteriorate human teeth.  The introduction of pre-processed sugar and flour in the late 19th century during the Industrial Revolution hastened the decline of teeth.

“What you’ve really created is an ecosystem which is very low in diversity and full of opportunistic pathogens that have jumped in to utilize the resources which are now free,” added Cooper.

Techniques from ancient dentistry
While Cooper’s study suggests that prehistoric man enjoyed greater oral health due to diet, another report published in PLoS One has revealed more information about possible early dentistry techniques.

Led by Federico Bernardini and Claudio Tuniz, of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy, researchers in Italy and Australia made remarkable discoveries while examining the remains of a 6,500-year-old human jawbone, Medical News Today reported.

Specifically, a tooth found with the jaw near Trieste in Slovenia hints at possible methods used to fill cavities by dentists during earlier times. The tooth, which is a left canine, was found to have traces of beeswax in the crown.

“This finding is perhaps the most ancient evidence of prehistoric dentistry in Europe and the earliest known direct example of therapeutic-palliative dental filling so far,” said Bernardini.

Bernardini and Tuniz used a variety of tools, including synchrotron radiation computed micro-tomography, accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating, infrared spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy to prod more deeply into the tooth.

Due to the condition of the tooth, researchers believe the person who received the filling may have been near-death or perhaps already dead by the time the procedure was completed.

“If the filling was done when the person was still alive, the intervention was likely aimed to relieve tooth sensitivity derived from either exposed dentine and/or the pain resulting from chewing on a cracked tooth,” wrote the study’s authors.

When it comes to having a set of sparkling chompers, there’s no need to live in the past!  While prehistoric man might have had an advantage due to a diet rich in hearty meats, legumes and nuts, there are plenty of ways that the men and women of today can improve their oral hygiene.

One of the first and most effective ways to counteract a poor diet, along with regular brushing and flossing, is to visit the dentist regularly. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

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The staff is always friendly and professional. My whole family goes here and I recommend them to all who need a dentist.
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Thank you Gentle Dental of Collingdale for stepping up for kids for Give Kids A Smile week! Thank you for helping make sure that all children can get good oral health care to stay healthy!!
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Every one here is so nice and professional. Any fear I may have had was alleviated almost immediately.
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Staff is friendly and professional.
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The dentist took the time to assure that I did not experience any pain. He explained everything he was going to do before he did it. The entire staff is very friendly
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Took very good care of my daughter and kept me informed on everything they had to do for her
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The Dentist and staff are professional, knowledgeable and kind. I admit to having moderate to high levels of anxiety when visiting the Dentist. My past experiences in Dental offices have been […]
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This was my first visit to this office my experience today was on of professional service that exceeded any i’ve received in years passed
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I have attending Gentle Dental for the past couple years and my experience has always been pleasant and satisfying. Employees are nice and the doctors are great.
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The Hygienist, Toni, always makes me feel comfortable when getting dental work and is up front with what I need to do to preserve my teeth. The reception staff, don’t remember her name, was helpful […]
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cleanliness of facility. The entire staff are very kind and genuinely care about each patient. The hygenists and doctors are very knowledgeable about things in the mouth that are not your average […]
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