People Were Treating Cavities 14,000 Years Ago–And It Wasn’t Pretty

Be glad your dentist uses tools that aren't rocks

Going to the dentist isn’t generally fun. You lie there, with your mouth open while someone picks and scrapes at your teeth. There’s a reason they bribe kids with toys and those adorable tiny toothpaste tubes. But as you prepare for your next dental checkup, remember that it really could be so much worse.

Researchers recently discovered the earliest evidence of people trying to treat cavities. A 14,000 year old tooth with a cavity showed signs of being scraped by a small flint tool.

The objective, apparently, was to remove the rotting parts of the infected tooth. That isn’t all that different from how dentists treat cavities today. When you go to your dentist with a cavity, they also remove the infected part of the tooth. The difference is, nowadays, they can numb the part of your mouth with the cavity, and also fill it in after the infected part is removed. Also, your dentist isn’t using rocks to fix your teeth.

The unfortunate soul who endured the prehistoric dentistry definitely did not have access to local anesthetic, and was about 7,500 years too early for even the most basic dental filling, beeswax.