If you go to the dentist and hear you have a cavity or gum disease, you’re dealing with a problem that’s been around for literally tens of thousands of years. A study out this year reveals that Neanderthals, our now-extinct human relatives who lived some 40,000 years ago, had some of the same dental issues we’re now struggling with today — and that they self-medicated using plants and even antibiotics.
The research out of Adelaide, Australia (which was published in Live Science) examined the DNA in dental plaque from 5 Neanderthal skeletons found in Spain, Italy, and Belgium. What they found was surprising for historians, anthropologists, and dentists alike.
Results from the dental DNA showed:
- Neanderthal skeletons from Spain ate a plant-based diet while others subsisted on meat
- One had a dental abscess (which today would be treated with a root canal) and was self-medicating by chewing on poplar, which has medicinal effects
- One showed the near-complete genome of the bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease in humans today
What does all this mean for you? The next time you need a filling or gum disease treatment, you’ve got Neanderthals to thank. Sort of.
Modern Dentistry Protects Your Smile
If these Neanderthals and their human-cousins could have visited a dentist regularly, they wouldn’t have had to chew poplar roots to cure the pain caused by a dental abscess. But even in 2017, people still fail to take advantage of the dental care that creates healthy, long-lasting smiles.
We know so much about teeth and how to prevent pain and tooth loss these days — and it all starts with routine oral hygiene. That includes brushing for two minutes, twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist every six months for a checkup and cleaning.
During a preventive appointment, we will remove your dental plaque and tartar and check for the evidence of weakened tooth enamel that indicates cavities. If an issue does exist, we can provide restorative care ASAP to prevent toothaches and missing teeth.
Patients of all ages should receive a checkup and cleaning at least every six months — and maybe even more frequently, if you are at a higher risk of cavities and gum disease.
Talk to your dentist about how often you should come in for optimum oral health. It’s 40,000 years later, and we don’t have to live in the dental stone age anymore — visit your dentist this month and know you’re doing your part to enjoy a clean, healthy, long lasting smile!
About the Authors
Drs. Bratcher, Stern, and Downing are trusted providers of comprehensive dental care for patients in and around Canton, TX. To learn more about their services and take your smile into the 21st century, we invite you to contact Legacy Dental Group at 903-567-4881.