The next time you feel a slight discomfort as your dentist drills a filling or the hygienist scrapes some tartar, be grateful you didn’t get a false tooth in ancient France – the pain was so great, the patient had to be dead first.
Archeologists in La Chene in northern France discovered the grave of a young Celtic woman who died about 2,300 years ago. In her mouth was an iron tooth which they believe was added after death to improve her looks and to spare her the pain of having it hammered into her jaw. The iron implant may have had an ivory or wooden covering to make it look more natural and it’s the oldest false tooth ever found in western Europe.
False teeth have been discovered in skulls of ancient Egyptians dating back at least 5,500 years. Etruscan women in Italy wore false teeth made from bone or animal teeth and the Celts may have learned about this while trading with the Italians.
Reporting in the June edition of the Antiquity journal, the archeologists expressed surprise at the find since the Celts were not known for their medical treatments. That’s obvious by the fact that the iron spiked tooth was hammered into the pulp canal of nerves and blood vessels to anchor it in the jaw. If the poor woman was actually alive when it took place, she may have died from the pain or an infection, according to the report.
Iron is not biocompatible and the absence of sterile conditions would have provoked an unfavourable host response.
The woman was buried with bronze torcs, anklets, bracelets and brooches, but the only thing that remained of her was a small heap of crushed bones, her perfectly preserved real teeth and one big iron one. So maybe she DID floss.