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Did Neanderthals Use Toothpicks Too?

After a satisfying meal, these little sticks called toothpicks to become our companion to ensure that our smile would not embarrass us with food particles stuck between our teeth.

A Brief History of Toothpicks

Toothpicks are considered one of the oldest hygiene inventions and have been used throughout history. In China, a ancient people wore bronze pendant around the neck and used as a toothpick. The Chinese also instructed their armies to use toothpicks to control bad breath.

The United States attributed the success of the American toothpick industry to 19th-century Bostonian Charles Foster.

According to Duke University Professor Henry Petroski, Foster hired Harvard students to demand toothpicks in restaurants. He will then come to the restaurant the next day to sell his wares, a tactic he also used at retail stores.
But Chinese and Americans are not the only ones who used toothpicks for their benefit. Anthropologists have also found evidence from fossilized teeth that suggest that early humans use toothpicks too.

Did Neanderthals Use Toothpicks?

A new study published in the Bulletin of the International Association for Paleodontology on the 130,000-year-old Neanderthal teeth may have just proven the existence of primitive dental care. Grooves were found in the teeth that indicated the use of toothpicks and impacted or rotated teeth.

University of Kansas Professor David Frayer, Croatian Natural History Museum Dr. Davorka Radovčić and University of Pennsylvania Professor Janet Monge re-examined the items extracted from a cave in Krapina, Croatia between 1899 and 1905.

Frayer then sought the help of dentist Joe Gatti for professional and clinical interpretation of their findings. They then studied four Neanderthal teeth under a microscope and saw exciting marks on the yellowed teeth. They saw grooves consistent with the use of toothpicks. Occlusal wear, which is the loss of material from the rubbing of teeth against each other, was also picked up.

In a statement, Frayer said, “The scratches indicate this individual was pushing something into his or her mouth to get at that twisted premolar.” The shape and alignment of the scratches also imply that the Neanderthal was pushing something into his or her mouth. However, the pair were unable to identify what the Neanderthals use as toothpicks accurately. However, Frayer suggested that it may be bits of bone or stems of durable grass as possibilities.

Similar grooves were also found on teeth of other human species, dating back 1.8 million years. But grooves from the Neanderthal teeth were much more profound, suggesting compelling evidence that these archaic humans respond to toothaches.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Fayer said, “The Neanderthal was presumably trying to treat itself, probing the space between the teeth to get at that twisted molar.”

The specimen had an impacted moral or a tooth that failed to emerge in the correct position. Fractured cusps were also seen. According to Gatti in the same interview, the wear patterns on the teeth were not different from present-age men.

Through time, teeth have proven their use in the understanding of early human beings, their life, and environment. As an evolutionary biologist, Dr. Alistair Evans of Monsah University said, “Teeth can tell us a lot about the lives of our ancestors, and how they evolved over the last seven million years.”

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