No toothpaste? No problem—at least not for our ancestors. A new analysis of skeletons reveals that people who lived in Sudan 2,000 years ago had cavity free teeth.

Ancient People Ate Better Than We Do

You read that right. All the advancement in modern day technology hasn’t delivered us a better diet, not from a dentistry point of view. On the contrary, starchy sugar-packed food is rotting our teeth at a faster rate than it did with the ancients.

Humans from 2,000 years ago ate meat-heavy diets. The earliest humans ate nothing but plant-based foods. Added sugar was absent in both cases. This

What does sugar do to our teeth?

You’ve probably heard your dentist say that sugar causes cavities—they aren’t exactly telling the truth. Sugar left on the teeth after eating is eaten by bacteria, who leave acid behind as a byproduct.

If left on your teeth, this acid is strong enough to break down tooth structure. It first attacks the surface layer of the tooth, the enamel. If the acid makes it through the enamel, it will eat away at the dentin. Dentin is a level of tooth structure just below the enamel. Mouth pain from a cavity likely means the dentin is being affected.

If the tooth doesn’t get filled by a dentist in time, the decay may reach the innermost part of the tooth—the pulp. Bacteria that reaches the pulp will likely cause infection. At this point, a root canal is the only solution.

So while it’s true that sugar does cause cavities, it does so indirectly. Acids are to blame for tooth decay.

What can we learn from our ancestors?

There’s a stalemate amongst the paleo-diet folks and people that think our ancestors were solely vegetarians. Evidence exists for both sides, and deciphering factual evidence from skeletal remains is no easy task. There is one consistency throughout history that we should pay attention to: cut your sugar intake.