For years, the Mayas have been known for being highly skilled architects, and experts in astronomy and mathematics, and even developed their own written language and calendar. But among their many successes that continue to intrigue the modern world, did you know that the Mayas of Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras were also skilled dentists, even before dentistry became a thing?
In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports has found out that the Mayas were practicing the profession almost a thousand years before the father of dentistry, French physician Pierre Fauchard, had even existed.
The study revealed that, apart from taking care of their teeth through regular cleaning and shaping it into pointed shapes, for ritualistic reasons, the Mayas were also highly fashionable and filled their tooth with a wide variety of precious stones and gems. An article, written by Big Think, on the published study revealed that evidence of jadeite, iron pyrites, hematite, turquoise, quartz, serpentine, and cinnabar have all been found in toot at several burial sites dating back to the first millennium.
If you have ever taken a trip to the dentist’s office to get one of your teeth filled then you would know how painful, uncomfortable and lengthy the process is even with updated equipment. Now can you imagine what the Mayas had to go through to get their inlays, without any of the modern-day technologies?
The study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports revealed that none of the remains appears to be that of elites but are believed to be members of the middle socio-economic class. The study also dived into evidence that they were able to collect which helped them to piece together how the Mayas were able to get the practice done.
They say that they found evidence of a large amount of sealant still present in some of the teeth that they inspected at the burial site. The study pointed out that based on that they concluded that the stones were not fixed into place by a mere glue but instead by cement that presented evidence of a complex mixture that more than likely also had medicinal benefits. Even though the samples each had different cement compounds, the study revealed that they all had mixtures that provided them with some protection against cavities as well as side effects of their surgery.
That study revealed that evidence of pine resin was still found in some of those samples, which is believed to have provided antimicrobial qualities. Other samples had evidence of sclareolide , a product used in cosmetics and often found in sage and tobacco. Sclareolid is known to have antifungal and antibacterial traits and had the potential to bestow its benefits into the cement filling that was also used. Evidence of oils from plants related to mint was also detected. These oils are believed to have been used in an effort to bestow anti-inflammatory effects on patients.
The authors of the study concluded that ”The analyses conducted on dental sealings from the Maya lowlands demonstrate the rich blend of organic components in the production of ancient dental cement. Our study confirms that these were not merely agglutinants. Rather, as anticipated by Fastlicht, the Maya developed complex recipes for their dental cement to produce adhesives that not only preserved for over a millennium but likely provided hygienic and therapeutic properties.”
The samples were all taken from gravesites found in Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.