Need a filling? Stone Age dentists knew their beeswax
2012-09-28 0:00

By Nicky Phillips | SydneyMorningHerald

Australian scientists have helped date what may be the world’s oldest dental filling – in a tooth crowned with beeswax in a 6500-year-old human jaw.

The portion of lower jaw, which was uncovered in a cave wall in northern Slovenia – an area rich in archaeological sites – bears two premolars, two first molars and a cracked canine filled with beeswax.

Age-old teeth ... the actual dental filling within the yellow line.

The thickness and size of the specimen suggests it belonged to a male, while the degree of wear on the teeth points to an owner aged in their late 20s.

An international team, including scientists from the University of Wollongong and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, used a range of sophisticated analytical technologies in laboratories around the world to date the teeth and the beeswax, as well as sample the filling and bone.

Radio carbon dating suggests the teeth’s owner lived sometime during the New Stone Age, between 6440 and 6650 years ago.

Detailed CT images of the canine tooth reveal the deep crack exposed the tooth’s dentine, the calcified tissue that sits below the enamel.

The exposed tissue and chewing on a cracked tooth probably made it highly sensitive, and could have affected the function of the jaw, the researchers said.


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