Anthropology and biogenetic research modern scientists a great deal about how living things existed thousands of years ago. Recent discoveries of Neanderthal dental records reveal interesting facts about how these early ancestors of Cro Magnon humans dealt with the common problem of plaque. Learning from the past does help people learn how to make appropriate decisions in the future. Unfortunately, reading a little too much into information garnered the dental and biological research could lead to making decisions to support the ill-advised idea of putting off a visit to the dentist's office.
The Aspirin Controversy
The dental records of one Neanderthal man who suffered from a tooth abscess revealed he ate black cottonwood bark. He did not do so because the bark tasted great. There are "chemical cousins" in black cottonwood to aspirin. Eating the bark cut down on daily pain. An improper assumption here may be that aspirin is fine for a sore tooth because it worked so well in the past. That would be a false assessment. Aspiring -- or tree bark -- might relieve the pain a bit, but it would do nothing to stop the growing infection or continued dental pain. Painkillers dull pain. An abscess requires antibiotics in addition to extended work on the tooth in order to remove the problem causing the abscess. The Neanderthal man stuck with natural aspirin because he had no other alternatives.
A Perfect Diet Isn't Perfect
Eating sugary foods could cause major problems with the teeth. Eating meat increases the risk of food particles getting stuck, breaking down, and creating troubling plaque. The aforementioned Neanderthal man lived in Spain, a region where Neanderthals ate mostly a plant-heavy diet. In essence, he was mainly a vegetarian and still ended up with dental plaque and a major infection. Granted, there are surely numerous other problems that contributed to the problem but no one should be lulled into thinking a good diet is enough to keep dental problems at bay. The fossil record shows a great diet alone won't deliver the same benefits that an annual teeth cleaning would.
Neanderthals and Limitations
Neanderthals had the unfortunate limitation of not being able to see a dentist, ever. The cynical could use this as an excuse as to why it is unnecessary to set a dentist. After all, the teeth in all these fossils did not just fall out. Such an assessment is simply employed to justify not seeing the dentist even when a bad problem occurs. Those who want to best care for their teeth should stick with modern assessments of appropriate dental care and hygiene.