A FEW DECADES BEFORE JESUS started healing people, a young man in Egypt died of what started as a toothache and ended as a whopping sinus infection.
That’s the best guess of University of Western Ontario experts studying CT scans of the fellow’s mummified head. Cavities churned into abscesses, which apparently erupted into a sinus infection that killed the man, estimated in his 20s or early 30s.
Teeth took a pounding in Bible times.
That’s because folks ate grain that they milled into flour by grinding the kernels between a pair of millstones. That grinding chipped away stone granules that got mixed into the flour.
So when folks bit into their bread, they had something to chew on that would not have been approved by the American Dental Association, in spite of the abrasive cleansing action. There’s healthy abrasion. And there’s chewing on sandpaper.
What was odd about the young man’s teeth is that he had a filling in his largest cavity. The cavity rotted its way into a pair of forward molars. The filling, stuffed between the teeth, was made of some kind of cloth.
Experts guess that the dentist—and dentists did exist back then—soaked the fabric in some kind of liquid to help soothe the man’s pain. Possibly cedar oil. People used it as a sedative, an antiseptic, and—something that would not have helped this man unless he kept his mouth open a lot—a bug repellent.
The filling was just a temporary fix. Not much of a fix at all—given that the patient died shortly thereafter, perhaps within days or weeks.
We take dental care for granted today. But in Bible times, you could die from a toothache. You still can if you don’t get treated for infections that develop in the pie hole.