Front Page







World Summary

On Air


Talking Point


Text Only


Site Map

Thursday, January 1, 1998 Published at 11:17 GMT


Tooth and nail dentures
image: [ The dental techniques of early humans are unlikley to have resulted in fine teeth like these ]
The dental techniques of early humans are unlikley to have resulted in fine teeth like these

An agonising example of early dentistry has been found in the skull of a man who died some 1,900 years ago.

The man who died in his 30's in Roman Gaul had a wrought iron false tooth - and it was probably fitted by being hammered home like a nail.

Anthropologists who made the discovery at a burial site at Chatambre, south of the French capital, say that despite the crude technique - and the pain which presumably accompanied it - the tooth was perfectly positioned and integrated into the jawbone.

The researchers reported that the find showed a successful tooth implant could be achieved "using surprisingly basic technology".

Analysis of the metal implant suggested that the original tooth was used as a model.

The discovery was described in the journal 'Nature' by anthropologist Eric Crubezy and colleagues, from the University of Toulouse.

They wrote: "The implant was probably set by impaction soon after the tooth loss. Chance played a part in this success."

The researchers added that while iron was not the ideal material for dental implants "its rugged surface must have provided satisfactory adhesion to the bone".

As the tooth was integrated into the bone and in a good anatomical position, it was probably functional.

"We cannot know why it was inserted," said the scientists. "But the early disappearance of the left molars might have given the subject the desire to keep an active right side.

"This case, in addition to its exceptional aspect and the technical craft it required, gives remarkable clues about medicine and anatomy in this rural community of the first or second century AD," they said.

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage

[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Internet Links

Nature magazine

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.