Cavity Treatments in History: From Beeswax to Linen

by Noelle Reinhold 12/15/2015 8:00 AM

For as long as humans have had teeth, they’ve had cavities. And those cavities required even the most primitive care. 

Recently, scientist discovered 14,000-year-old evidence of cavity treatment. A large hole was originally mistaken as a severe cavity but turned out to be the work of stone tools used to scrape away tooth decay. 

Take a look at how cavity treatment evolved through the years:

7000 BCEEleven molarsshow evidence of early drilling, most likely conducted with a flint drill bit and bow-drill.

4500 – 3500 BCE – Humans living in Slovenia had cavities filled with beeswax 

500 – 300 BCE – Written text from Hippocrates and Aristotle describes extracting rotten teeth with forceps. 

80 BCE –Egyptians “pack” teeth with linen and medicine to prevent particles from getting into the cavity.

166 – 201 AD - Etruscans had primitive gold crowns as dental prosthetics for the upper class.

700 AD  - Ancient Chinese text describes silver paste being used to fill cavities, the earliest known form of amalgam.


Although the work was rough, these ancient dentists mimicked the handiwork of their predecessors. Modern dentistry also treats cavities by removing decayed areas of a tooth…yet we have the luxury of sterile tools, numbing agents and advanced fillings materials.

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