Prehistoric Toothache Sheds Light on Modern Mouths

At Sue Walker Dentistry, we love learning about new research about teeth– sometimes even when those teeth aren’t human!

A very old ache

Recently, a study on fossils came up with some surprising insights on the impact of evolution on oral health. Researchers used CT scans of Labidosaurus hamatus, a 275-million-year-old reptile and found that this early land-dweller had terrible cavities! In fact, the unfortunate Labidosaurus was suffering from bone abscesses resulting from untreated periodontal infection when it died.

A change in diet = a change in teeth

Researchers speculate that the reason why Labidosaurus experienced toothache wasn’t just its lack of proper dental hygiene, it had to do with the ancient animals’ recent migration from aquatic living. Prehistoric aquatic reptiles had teeth like sharks today do: rows and rows of chompers that fall out and are replaced throughout a lifetime. When reptiles made their first venture onto dry ground, they found different foods, and consequently, changed their teeth.

These new teeth were more like our teeth today: firmly attached to the jaw bones, so that fibrous terrestrial plants and boney prey could be ground up and swallowed with ease. This evolutionary adaption was beneficial for Labidosaurus, except for one thing. The firm attachment meant that infected teeth didn’t fall out, they stayed– and led to what appears to be some pretty painful infections, according to researchers.

Thank goodness for modern times!

Fortunately for us, we have tools that the Labidosaurus did not have: proper dental hygiene techniques with toothbrushes and floss, and preventive care from Dr. Sue Walker. However, it’s interesting to learn about the prehistoric toothaches because it tells us a little more about our teeth came to be what they are today.

If you are interested in learning more, or have questions on the best choice for cosmetic dentistry milwaukie or  has, see the research article here. We look forward to seeing you at your next appointment at Sue Walker Dentistry!

 

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