How Old Are Your Fillings?

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History. Whether we refer to it as the “the good old days” or “the dark ages”, we view whatever topic we’re discussing through our current experiences. With dental procedures having made such advancements in the recent past, we think most people would agree that, if they could choose between having dental work and fillings done during pretty much anytime in the recent past versus today, 2017 would be the clear winner!

But how far back do you think when you imagine having a tooth pulled or a filling done? Probably a hundred, maybe two hundred years at most. But did you know that the earliest known fillings have been dated back 13,000 years to the Ice Age?

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A pair of two upper central incisors were found at the Ripario Fredian site near Lucca in Northern Italy. The teeth each had a surface hole that reached deep into the pulp chamber and was filled with bitumen. University of Bologna archaeologist Stephano Benazzi, along with his team, used microscopic techniques to analyze the teeth and found a series of tiny horizontal marks on the walls that suggest they were cavities that had been drilled out and enlarged. The holes contained traces of bitumen, plant fibers and hairs, which Benazzi and his team think indicate an early attempt at a dental filling – used to fill the hole and reduce pain.

No other similar manipulated teeth or indicators of early dental work has been found yet but these two teeth provide an interesting clue as to how Ice Age humans worked to address dental ailments with the tools at their disposal. Although primitive when compared to our standards, it was a step forward in working to resolve dental pain.

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