Oldest Dental Filling Ever Uncovered is Beeswax

Oldest Dental Filling Ever Uncovered is BeeswaxDentists have used composite, gold, ceramic, and amalgam for dental fillings, but beeswax?

Scientists have uncovered a 6500-year-old human jawbone with a tooth that has what appears to be cavity covered by beeswax.

The jawbone was discovered last century in a cave in Slovenia and the research group report that radiocarbon dating places the jawbone in the Stone Age.

Researchers Federico Bernardini and Claudio Tuniz of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy, along with Alfredo Coppa, Lucia Mancini, Diego Dreossi, Diane Eichert, Gianluca Turco, Matteo Biasotto, Filippo Terrasi, Nicola De Cesare, Quan Hua, and Vladimir Levchenko published their findings in the open access journal PLoS ONE on September 19.

The report states that with 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. (PLos ONE)

The beeswax filling is significant because prior to this discovery there has been no published evidence on the use of therapeutic-palliative substances in prehistoric dentistry.

“The jawbone remained in the museum for 101 years without anybody noticing anything strange,” says Claudio Tuniz at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste. That was until Tuniz and his colleague Federico Bernardini happened to use the specimen to test new X-ray imaging equipment, and spotted some unusual material attached to a canine, reports New Scientist Life.

The scientists hypothesize that due to the exposed dentin and possibly the vertical crack, the tooth probably became very sensitive, limiting the functionality of the jaw during occlusion. The occlusal surface could have been filled with beeswax in an attempt to reduce the pain sealing exposed dentin tubules and the fracture from changes in osmotic pressure (as occurs on contact with sugar) and temperature (hot or cold relative to the oral cavity). The binding properties of beeswax could have been increased by the probable presence of honey, one of the main ingredients of external applications used in ancient Egypt to fix loose teeth or to reduce the tooth pain. (PLos ONE)

Since 3D imaging was used to discover the filing, it will be interesting to see how this technology will help dentists diagnose dental problems at their earliest stages.

What are your thoughts on this discovery? 

To read the full research article, see Beeswax as Dental Filling on a Neolithic Human Tooth on PLos ONE.

Dentists: BPA is Back Making Front Page Dental News Again

BPA in Children is Making Front Page Dental NewsBisphenol A (also known as BPA), a chemical used in lightweight plastics, dental sealants and dental fillings is back making news headlines once again.

First, the federal government announced this month that baby bottles and sippy cups can no longer contain BPA.

This was followed by reports from a new study stating that children getting dental fillings made with BPA are more likely to have behavior and emotional problems later in life.

The study, as reported in Pediatrics Online, “makes a strong case that in the short-term, use of BPA-containing dental materials should be minimized,” asserts Philip Landrigan, director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

The researchers in the study tracked 534 children with cavities from when each child received their first dental fillings. Over the following 5 years, the researchers noted that those children who had cavities filled with a composite material containing traces of BPA consistently scored 2 – 6 points less on 100-point behavior assessments than those who didn’t have fillings.

As reported in Science News, the researchers never administered clinical diagnostic behavioral tests to the children.

Instead, they periodically administered some widely used checklists to the children or their parents, allowing each to self-assess features such as a child’s attitudes toward teachers or others, depression, self-esteem, attention problems, delinquent behaviors, acting-out or problems with attentiveness.

Since the children were 6-12 years old at the time, these type of behaviors are not uncommon for children living with a variety of circumstances like divorce, bullying, and problems at home.

However researchers argue that the behavior problems being reported seemed to happen more with the children who had BPA fillings, causing them to believe that some dental fillings may start to break down over time, thus exposing these children to the chemical.

The U.S. government is currently spending $30 million on its own BPA research to determine the chemical’s health effects on humans.

As a dentist, what are your thoughts on the use of BPA?

For more on this story see: Putting BPA-based Dental Fillings in Perspective 

Dentist Loses License for Unnecessary Dental Fillings

Dentist performs unnecessary fillingsA dentist who tricked patients into getting expensive and unnecessary dental work has been banned from practice by UK’s General Dental Council.

Dr. Constantine Saridakis had previously paid a hefty amount for unneeded dental fillings performed before 2007. He was suspended from treating NHS patients in 2008, but did anyway, altering patient records to cover it up.

‘The committee considered suspension of your registration,” said the chair at Dr. Saridakis’s hearing, “but concluded that a period of suspension would not sufficiently protect the public in future.”

In multiple cases, the doctor recommended multiple fillings (as many as 10) on patients whose charts did not indicate any tooth decay. His partner provided a second opinion on some cases, often finding no evidence of decay.

When confronted by his partner, Dr. Saridakis allegedly replied, “Sometimes I’m preventative, and sometimes I’m in a money-making mood.”

Read more: Dentist conned patients into unnecessary fillings

Dentists Passionately Diasgree About Amalgam Fillings

by Jim Du Molin

Ten Ways Mercury Raises Strong Feelings Among Dentists

I knew I was stepping in a big pile of controversy when I recently decided to run a survey about mercury fillings, but I was curious to see where you all stand on the issue.

If I was hoping for a clear answer one way or the other, I certainly didn’t get it! You dentists are split right down the middle on this one. You sent in a record number of responses to this question. (Read the dentists’ comments.)

Well, let me resolve the issue once and for all in this short article.

Ha! Just kidding. I don’t pretend to be a clinical expert or a scientific researcher; I’m just a marketing guy who knows a lot about dental practices. All I can do is give you my take on the issue.

Let me respond to some of the issues – both for and against mercury amalgam – most commonly raised by dentists.


  • People don’t want silver fillings because they’re ugly.
    There’s no denying the fact that we live in a cosmetically conscious society. Last year, Julia Roberts received some heat from the press when a photographer captured not just her laugh but a mouthful of silver fillings as well.
  • Silver fillings can last for 50 years.
    It’s true, but silver fillings also break down.
  • It’s not clear that composite materials are safe.
    It’s true that composites have not been proven to be safe (scientifically, it’s hard to prove anything is safe), but studies have also not indicated they’re dangerous, and they don’t seem to pose the same risks as silver/mercury fillings.
  • It’s public fear-mongering to question the safety of amalgam.
    We still have freedom of speech, right? It’s a valid concern, and it’s the right of a free society to discuss any issue.
  • The ADA and the FDA say amalgam is safe.
    Let’s talk to the FDA about a few other things too: Agent Orange, thalidomide, DDT…
  • How can it be safe inside your body but toxic waste outside of it?
    It actually can become more dangerous as you remove it. Many dentists who remove but do not place amalgam fillings have high levels of mercury in their systems. It’s like asbestos – most toxic during removal.
  • Amalgam works better in some situations.
    Did I say I was a dentist? You’re the doctor trained to make clinical decisions. If you want to use amalgam on DL of #31 with poor moisture control and a patient who doesn’t floss, that’s your call to make. But is there really any need for a 3-surface amalgam?
  • Mercury is a health hazard to dental professionals.
    This is absolutely true, and I hope it’s something you’re aware of and test for. I knew a dentist who bought an old practice not realizing the whole place was saturated with mercury. After the staff of five women suffered three miscarriages in five years, they finally did a toxicology study. You wouldn’t believe how expensive it was to decontaminate.
  • Silver amalgam is a clinical issue, not a marketing one.
    You’re a dentist, so you might see it that way. I’m a marketer, and to me it’s a marketing issue. First, composites let you avoid the safety issues of mercury. Second, restorations look better with composite materials. Seems pretty straightforward to me.
  • Calling it “mercury amalgam” reveals your bias.
    Listen, I tried as hard as I could to keep the wording of my survey neutral. I understand that many of you prefer the term “silver amalgam.” To me, that’s a linguistic question. The term amalgam used to mean a mercury-based mixture of metals, but it has come to mean any homogenous mixture. According to the older definition, the material would be called “silver amalgam,” while the modern popular definition leads to the phrase “mercury amalgam.”



Many thanks to all the dentists who responded to our poll; your comments were invaluable.

If you disagree with anything I’ve said here, I blame it all on the dentists who left me their comments. No, I’m kidding – I’m prepared to take whatever you’ve got. I know I’m standing in the middle of a lightning storm here!

Share your own thoughts about the dangers of mercury or the benefits of silver amalgam fillings!

Jim Du Molin


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