A 2015 report in the journal Scientific Reports asserts that ancient man may have had some knowledge of dentistry back in the Late Upper Paleolithic era, about 14,000 years ago. A tooth unearthed in northern Italy showed evidence of a cavity and "extensive enamel chipping," say researchers at the University of Bologna. The researchers explained that this was evidence of someone trying to chip out the cavity, possibly using a tool made of sharpened flint.
This would be the oldest evidence that prehistoric man experimented with ways to treat dental pain. In a 2012 study, researchers found evidence that beeswax was used as filling material on a cracked tooth in a Neolithic skull found in Slovenia, dating back 6,500 years. Another study, published in 2006, found evidence of dental "drilling" on human molars found in Pakistan that dated from between 4,000 and 7,000 BC.
The history of early dentistry:
- According to the American Dental Association, Sumerian writings from 5,000 BC describe "tooth worms" as the cause of dental decay.
- An inscription on the Egyptian tomb of Hesy-Re calls the 2,600 BC-era writer "the greatest of those who deal with teeth …" The ADA says that this is evidence of the first person in history to be identified as a dentist.
- Between the 5th and 3rd centuries BC, Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about tooth decay, gum disease and the use of wires to stabilize loose teeth and fractured jaws.