WTF Fun Fact 12918 – The First Dental Filling

You’ve probably always wondered when dental fillings started to be a thing. Because everyone loves to think about the dentist, right?

Interestingly, some people have called dentistry “the oldest profession” since archeological evidence shows people trying to treat cavities many thousands of years ago. We’re not sure about that label, but it does make us wonder why humans weren’t built with better teeth.

Dental archaeology and the first filling

The oldest dental filling dates back to at least the Neolithic period. An international team of researchers largely based in Italy published a paper in 2012 noting that they found evidence of prehistoric dentistry in the form of a 6500-year-old mandible in Slovenia with a crown made of beeswax.

Whoever this poor chap was, he was clearly in enough pain to try and find a way to lessen it by getting his chipped enamel treated.

The researchers described how they assessed the mandible (in a paper cited below): “The use of different analytical techniques, including synchrotron radiation computed micro-tomography (micro-CT), Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating, Infrared (IR) Spectroscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), has shown that the exposed area of dentine resulting from occlusal wear and the upper part of a vertical crack affecting enamel and dentin tissues were filled with beeswax shortly before or after the individual’s death.”

Ok, but the next question is, is it really a filling if you’re already dead? We don’t have an answer to that or a way of knowing if the person was dead or alive when it was inserted.

The researchers noted that “If the filling was done when the person was still alive, the intervention was likely aimed to relieve tooth sensitivity derived from either exposed dentine and/or the pain resulting from chewing on a cracked tooth: this would provide the earliest known direct evidence of therapeutic-palliative dental filling.”

Is dentistry the oldest profession?

Dentistry is certainly one of the oldest medical professions (even though the first dental school in the world was opened in the 1820s in Ohio) and the first formal dental text was written in the 1500s. There’s plenty of evidence (written and archaeological) to show that fixing teeth goes back a very long way.

Whether or not it’s the oldest profession (instead of, say, what we normally think of as holding that title) is something we’ll never know. But we kind of doubt it.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Beeswax as Dental Filling on a Neolithic Human Tooth” — PLoS One

WTF Fun Fact 12741 – The Force of Teeth Grinding in Humans

Have you ever woken up feeling like someone punched you in the jaw? Or how about with unexplained headaches or even a loose tooth? You might be grinding your teeth.

Well, first, make sure your partner isn’t exhibiting some REM behavior disorder that makes them flail wildly in their sleep. If not, you might want to ask your dentist about bruxism because it can wreak havoc on more than just your teeth.


We all clench our teeth sometimes (like when we’re tense, for example, and it can even be subconscious). While this doesn’t typically do much harm, habitual teeth grinding can affect your jaw and all the muscles around it, leading to neck and head pain and dental issues.

Bruxism, as the teeth grinding condition is called, can also lead to facial changes (it can even change your facial profile) as you lose, chip, or wear down teeth. It can even cause your cheekbones to drop, making your face look droopy and prematurely aged.

Why we grind

According to The Cleveland Clinic, “Men and women get bruxism at roughly the same rate. If you have a family history of teeth grinding, you may face a higher risk. Other risk factors include:

  • Personality type, as people who are very driven may be more prone to teeth grinding.
  • Stress.
  • Cigarette smoking and caffeine use.
  • Certain anti-anxiety medications.”

As you might imagine, bruxism also affects getting a good night’s sleep. So if nothing else, it’s useful to solve the problem so sleep issues don’t cause other problems in your life.

Young children can have bruxism too, and the way they grind teeth it can be caused by anything from allergies to genetics. Often, they outgrow it as their jaws change.

Treatment usually consists of a nightguard, but if you habitually grind your teeth while awake, you may need to train yourself to stop and notice the habit and practice some stress relief techniques.

Two hundred and fifty pounds is a lot of force for a human jaw (most of the time, our molars have about 70 pounds of force, and a strong jaw tops out at about 160 if you’re really trying).

According to the New York Times, “By way of comparison, a well-publicized 1996 study of the tyrannosaurus, done at Stanford, estimated its bite strength ranged from 1,440 to 3,011 pounds, noting that this was fairly close to the power of an alligator’s jaws.”

Now just imagine being a T-rex with bruxism! Ouch. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)” — The Cleveland Clinic

WTF Fun Fact – Medieval Dentistry

WTF Fun Fact - medieval dentists

Medieval dentists had many of the same skill-sets as modern dentists. They could fill cavities, treat facial fractures, spot oral cancer, and whiten teeth. Additionally, they could make dentures out of cow bone and human teeth. WTF Fun Facts