The tooth in question (Photo: Oxilia et al/Scientific Reports)

For millennia now, the human diet has cursed people with cavities. But a team of European scientists have now found indications that humans have tried to fix those cavities as long as 14,000 years ago—“the earliest evidence of dental caries intervention,” they write.

In a new study, published in Scientific Reports, the team describes the lower right third molar of a 25-year-old man who died during the Late Upper Paleolithic era. Using a very powerful microscope, they examined striations and “extensive enamel chipping” on a tooth with cavities in it and concluded that those marks indicated that someone had tried to treat the cavities by chipping away at the infection with a tiny, pointed flint tool. 

It was previously known that ancient humans cleaned their teeth with tooth picks. But this is the earliest known instance of humans trying to actually fix dental problems.

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