Questions for ‘Cool Jobs: Drilling into the secrets of teeth’


The jaw from a skull excavated in Nepal around A.D. 500. By studying the DNA from food and bacteria trapped in the teeth of such ancient peoples, anthropologists can learn what these folk ate and what diseases they suffered long ago.

Christina Warinner

To accompany feature “Cool Jobs: Drilling into the secrets of teeth


Before Reading

1. Why is it important to keep teeth healthy?

2. Have you ever had a dental problem, such as a cavity or a broken tooth? What was it like to have it fixed?         

During Reading

1. What is a root canal treatment? What are the steps involved in this treatment?     

2. What big problem does the story link to root canal treatments? What was Dean Ho’s big idea for making root canals more reliable?     

3. What are nanodiamonds? What should make them useful for root canals?     

4. What are dentures and dental implants? What are the drawbacks of each?     

5. What was Pamela Yelick’s idea for fixing teeth?     

6. What are stem cells? Why might they be useful in repairing teeth?

7. Where did Yelick get stem cells?   

8. What is a scaffold? Why is it important in Yelick’s work?  

9. According to Christina Warinner, what is the most valuable part of ancient teeth?     

10. How does Warinner study ancient teeth?     

11. What is today’s “Paleo diet?” What did Warinner learn about the actual diet of Paleolithic people?

12. What questions have Warinner and her colleagues been trying to answer by studying ancient people who colonized the harsh, high-altitude environments of Nepal?

After Reading

1. Describe three meals that you ate this week. How similar is your diet to the modern Paleo diet or the ancient Paleo diet?

2. Engineering new materials to repair or regrow damaged teeth is expensive. Is it worth it? Explain your answer using evidence from the story.