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Ancient dentistry: Beeswax filling may be the first dental work

Archaeologists may have discovered evidence of the first dental work ever performed on a human.

While examining a 6500-year-old human jawbone, scientists noticed traces of what appeared to be a simple filling in a clearly decayed and cracked tooth. Using a variety of tests, researchers were able to conclude in a journal article that the filling was made of beeswax and was likely administered shortly before the person’s death.

The filling could not have lasted very long (as beeswax is not particularly durable), but the procedure could have been effective at relieving the pain associated with a severely-decayed tooth.


Obviously, we’re not about to throw 6500 years worth of progression in dentistry out the window and start using beeswax in our fillings as a tribute to this ancient dentist. But we can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity and take a moment to consider just how much dentistry has improved human life.

It wasn’t that long ago in human history that aching teeth were the norm, not the exception. In a world without toothpaste — whether it was 6500 years ago, or just two centuries — few people’s teeth stayed intact through adulthood. But all that has changed.

So before you shudder at the thought of visiting the dentist  — you wouldn’t do that, would you? — take a moment to think back on what life would be without modern dentistry. You might have found yourself with a tooth full of beeswax, too. If you were lucky.