Neanderthal Finds Dentistry, Fixes Teeth

neanderthal dentistry toothpick teeth
Neanderthal teeth showing wear and chipping. *See below for Frayer’s detailed explanation of the image. Photo David Frayer, University of Kansas.

Ever wondered what to do about a toothache if you’re stranded 130,000 years in the past?  Worry not dear friend, at least one neanderthal has you covered.


A research team led by Dr. David Frayer, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Kansas, has uncovered evidence of “prehistoric dentistry” on the teeth of one neanderthal suffering from a partially impacted molar and misaligned premolars.


Frayer and his team found deep, intentional grooves on various surfaces of the neanderthal's teeth caused by his or her attempt to treat his/her dental maladies with a toothpick.  The team also found breaks on the tongue side of the teeth, breaks that occurred well before the neanderthal died.  Frayer and his group say that while the breaks could have been caused by chewing with misaligned teeth, one cannot rule out the possibility that the teeth were broken intentionally to relieve discomfort caused by the partially impacted molar. 


Frayer and his group’s work was published in the Bulletin of the International Association for Paleodontology and can be found here.  http://hrcak.srce.hr/183221


* "Three views of the four articulated teeth making up KDP 20. a. occlusal view showing lingually placed mesial interproximal wear facet on P4 (arrow) and buccal wear on M3; b. lingual view showing a mesially placed interproximal wear facet on P4 (arrow), chips from lingual faces of all teeth and rotated, partially impacted M3; c. buccal view showing rotated buccal face of M3 (arrow) and hypercementosis on its root.”

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