We all cringe at the thought of going to the dentist — and that’s with the comfortable recliners, the soothing music, the anesthetics and analgesics. Imagine what a visit to the dentist must have been like thousands of years ago.
In modern-day Pakistan, where the earliest evidence of dentistry has been found, Stone Age dentists were wielding drills made of flint. Nine-thousand-year-old teeth found at a Neolithic graveyard showed clear signs of drilling, but also signs that rotting gum tissue had been removed, leading researchers to consider the crude drills “surprisingly effective.”
In fact, in a 2006 article for the journal Nature, researchers wrote about the “perfect,” “amazing” holes those flint drills had made. The holes were about one-seventh of an inch deep, except in one case where the dentist had managed to drill a hole in the inside back end of a tooth, boring out toward the front of the mouth. There is no evidence of dental fillings; however, at least one researcher believes some sort of “tarlike material or soft vegetable matter” may have been placed inside the holes. Unfortunately for those early patients, it’s unlikely that the dentists used any kind of anesthetic. Continue reading