Toothaches are nothing new–people have been suffering from them for thousands of years. But how did people the world over deal with those painful aches, and what did they believe caused them?

The answer to that last question is a fairly strange and grotesque one… Instead of attributing the pain to cavities, toothaches were widely believed to be the work of a mythical creature called a tooth worm. Modern dentistry was centuries away, and people lacked an explanation for the tiny holes they would sometimes find in their teeth.

A sort of “urban legend”, the tooth worm was believed to bore holes in teeth, then cause pain by wriggling around inside the tooth. Some “dentists” back then even mistook tooth roots for tooth worms and would brutally extract the tooth in efforts to cure the pain. The legend continued all the way to the 18th century, when Western civilization replaced that theory by rightfully attributing toothaches to tooth decay and cavities.

There were dozens of attempts to cure toothaches in the ancient world, many of them painful and ineffective. Here is a sample of some ancient remedies (aside from extractions):

  • Burning the cavity with a hot probe
  • Chewing on hot chilis
  • Fumigating the worm from the body by boiling a mixture goat fat, onions and other ingredients
  • Filling the cavity with wax then using a hot probe to burn it out
  • Chewing cloves (this one’s not bad, actually–cloves have natural analgesic and antibacterial properties)
  • Filling the cavity with a piece of garlic or black peppercorn

Thankfully for all of us, dentistry has come a long way since the age of the legendary tooth worm. We now know how cavities happen and what to do about them. If you are experiencing tooth pain, contact A Beautiful Smile today to schedule an appointment for a cleaning and filling. You’ll lose the pain and regain a healthy, beautiful smile. Call today. (281) 549-5177