Evidence of the oldest known dental work has been discovered in the cavity of the molar of a Paleolithic hunter. Italian scientists discovered the well-preserved skeleton in a shallow grave, along with some of what can be assumed his most precious belongings, including a flint knife and blade. His remains were found outside of Belluno, Italy in the Dolomites in 1988.
The tooth is about 14,000 years old, indicating that the world’s first dentistry happened 5,000 years earlier than we had previously thought.
According to the scientists, it was previously known that humans used sharp wooden objects (toothpicks, etc.) to rid their teeth of food debris, but this is the first evidence of actual dental work. After a thorough analysis, the scientists determined that there was evidence of rot in one of the hunter’s molars, which had been dug out using what was likely a sharp tool made of flint.
While the attempt to clear the tooth of decay was relatively unsuccessful, it is important to note that the humans of this era were cognizant of the importance of dental hygiene and were actively engaged in protecting their teeth, says one researcher.
Previously, the earliest known dental works revolved around a beeswax tooth filling that was discovered in a 6,500 year old human tooth uncovered in Slovenia, as well as actual cavity drilling seen in 9,000-year-old molars from Neolithic skeletons found in Pakistan.