New Research Reveals That Our Ancestors Shared The Same Dental Problems We Do 2.5 Million Years Ago

Cavities and lesions were remarkably common in all of our hominin ancestors, even without the soft drinks and processed foods that we consume today.

Our ancient human ancestors suffered from the same dental problems we do today.
Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

Cavities and lesions were remarkably common in all of our hominin ancestors, even without the soft drinks and processed foods that we consume today.

While it may seem surprising, new research has revealed that our ancient human ancestors had the same dental problems that we do today, even as far back as 2.5 million years ago.

Dental erosion in human teeth is exceedingly common today, and while foods and beverages like wine, soft drinks, and fruit juices are often said to be the culprit, it may actually be how we clean our teeth that could also be causing these issues, as ScienceAlert report.

Despite the issues that modern humans face with their teeth today, scientists have found dental lesions on front teeth that are 2.5-million-years-old which look just like cases that are often seen today. This would suggest that even though we have very different diets from our prehistoric ancestors, humans have always faced the same dental issues.

Dental erosion is a serious issue that can leave behind lesions on the enamel of teeth as well as the root surface areas. By brushing your teeth too hard, dental tissue becomes weak over time, and by consuming certain drinks and acidic foods, deep holes may eventually form that are called non-carious cervical lesions.

Remarkably, scientists have found these very same lesions in the teeth of ancient humans that are known as Australopithecus africanus. Research suggests that the individual who suffered from these lesions would have had to live with very sensitive teeth and most likely suffered from severe toothaches.

Scientists were curious to learn why ancient human teeth looked so similar to ours today even without the soft drinks and other foods that we consume, and believe that the erosive wear on these 2.5-million-year old teeth may have come from the tough foods that they ate, along with acidic foods like fruits and vegetables.

Tubers, for instance, can be very tough, and some are also highly acidic, and these may have been responsible for some of the prehistoric lesions that were seen in these teeth.

While dental erosion may appear rare in fossilized teeth, this may not be because they were not common, but instead because scientists haven’t specifically looked for them before. However, cavities and lesions are a frequent discovery in prehistoric, fossilized teeth. In fact, fossilized teeth from each of the hominin species that have been examined have all shown signs of cavities, even the new species known as Homo naledi.

Even without the processed foods and the sugary soft drinks that modern humans partake of today, research shows that our ancient ancestors still suffered from the same dental issues that are faced today.