The Time-Tested Truth About Tartar: Surprising Facts Revealed from Our Ancestor’s Teeth

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Every once in a while, archaeologists make discoveries that reveal a small window into dental history. Recently, we came across an interesting article that did just that. As family dentists in Orlando, we treat a variety of dental conditions with cosmetic dentistry, preventive care, and restorative dentistry – all with the goal of making your smile healthy and attractive. This article reminded us about ongoing concerns for your oral health and how important it is for us to keep to that goal together!

Let’s see what this discovery tells us about our ancestors’ health, what it means for us today, and how we can use this information to keep our teeth healthy for life.

400,000 Year-Old Tartar

Researchers have been studying some prehistoric human teeth, recently found in a cave in Tel Aviv, that they have dated back to 400,000 years ago! They just released the discoveries they made by observing the calculus – or tartar – on these teeth. Read more about it here – and get a peek at these millennia-old teeth!

To summarize, they found evidence of harmful substances, plant-based food, and even material from what might be prehistoric toothpicks! Specifically, they noted in the tartar “charcoal from indoor fires; evidence for the ingestion of essential plant-based dietary components; and fibers that might have been used to clean teeth or were remnants of raw materials.”

So what can we learn about these three findings from our ancient friend’s teeth?

Pollutants: Ways to Harm Your Teeth

We may not be living in a closed cave where we’re exposed to charcoal daily. But there are a lot of things today that can hurt our teeth and therefore our dental health:

  • smoking and tobacco use
  • regular alcohol use or abuse
  • sugary and high-carb foods, such as candy, cookies and other dessert items, processed snack foods like chips, and fruit snacks
  • sugary beverages, such as sodas (very acidic!), fruit-flavored drinks, juice, red wine, and other sweetened beverages
  • These “tooth pollutants” allow bad bacteria to thrive and create plaque buildup. They should be avoided or, at the least, limited in order to preserve our teeth. (After all, maybe someone will find our teeth 400,000 years from now to speculate about our environment and diet!)

    Diet: Ways to Strengthen Your Teeth

    Even with tartar buildup, our prehistoric friend’s teeth have lasted for 400,000 years! One good way to keep teeth strong, as evidenced by this study, is to eat a healthy diet. We just talked about some foods that can harm your teeth, but what about foods that can strengthen your teeth? These can include:

  • milk, yogurt, and other dairy foods high in calcium and phosphorus, which restore the minerals that your teeth are made of
  • nuts, chicken, and other natural, high-protein foods
  • greens, many of which can have a cleaning effect on your teeth
  • crunchy vegetables and fruits, which are largely made of water
  • Home Hygiene and Dental Cleanings: Ways to Clean and Preserve Your Teeth

    The fibers found in the ancient human’s teeth are thought to be a form of toothpick or other natural tooth-cleaning device. Even without modern-day toothbrushes and toothpastes, dental hygiene was so important that evidence of it was left behind in these teeth!

    Have you taken a look at your toothbrush lately? Is it working well for you? Is it comfortably getting your teeth, tongue, and gums very clean? Take a look at last month’s blog post for more information on your toothbrush.

    Even if you think your toothbrush is fine, make sure you’re brushing at least twice a day, especially after meals, and flossing once per day. We don’t expect you to use plant fibers to get between your teeth like our ancestors, but let us know if you have trouble choosing a good floss or learning how to floss properly.

    Despite our ancestor’s attempts to keep his teeth clean, the calculus buildup found on his teeth would have been common without today’s dental tools and technology that easily prevent this buildup. That’s one of the reasons it’s important for you to come in for regular cleanings. We recommend every six months, just as the American Dental Association suggests. This is enough time for plaque to start to accumulate and form hardened tartar. Only special dental cleaning tools can get this hardened material off, but it helps to keep it at bay by brushing and flossing daily.

    See Your Dental Experts at Overmeyer Family Dental to Keep Your Teeth Healthy

    Take some simple lessons from our ancient friend and let the experts at our Orlando dental office help you keep your teeth strong! Contact us today make an appointment for a dental cleaning. We’ll keep your teeth free from tartar and give you the information you need to keep your them healthy for life!

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