Superstitious Beliefs on Curing Toothaches

curing a toothacheIn our last blog post, we discussed some little-known facts about dental implants. We’re going to switch gears from dental implants to talk about other cures for toothaches that aren’t founded in science at all. This week, Dr. Puccio of Midland Family Dentistry is blogging from Wyckoff, NJ to discuss wives’ tale myths related to toothaches.

Before the days of modern medicine, people took superstitious and creative actions to ward off illnesses. For instance, in the 1400s people thought that they could cure their black plague by rubbing their bodies with a chicken. There were similar myths that existed when it came to curing dental problems.

Toothaches are one of the worst pains on earth, so it’s understandable that people would take extreme measures to try and make them feel better. In the middle ages, it was common belief that tooth pain came from a tooth worm.”

The Mythical Tooth Worm

In various cultures throughout the 17th and 18th century, there were many myths associated with toothaches. One superstition was that there was a gnawing worm that would get into people’s teeth.


In England, it was believed that the worm resembled an eel. In Germany, people believed the worm was red, blue, and gray, similar to a maggot. The infamous tooth worm was the cause of toothaches.

To cure the tooth worm, people would fumigate their mouths with seeds that would cause the worm to burst. There were also other magical formulas and oaths that people would make to get rid of their tooth worm.

Sometimes people would inhale smoke or spear their teeth with honey to try and persuade the worm to come out.

As you can tell, periodontics has come a long way since the age of the tooth worm.

Medieval Methods for Curing Toothaches

Besides the tooth worm, there was a variety of other superstitious methods people would use to try and get rid of toothaches. Here is a list of our favorites from the Encyclopedia of Superstitions:  

  • Avoid toothaches by carrying a few teeth from a horse with you at all times.
  • Extract a tooth from a corpse and carry it in a small bag around your neck
  • In the middle ages, it was believed that you could transfer your paint to something else. People with toothaches would rub their gums with a nail, then hammer it in an oak tree to give their pain to the tree.
  • Another cure was to crush ladybugs to make a juice and rub it on the gums
  • If your toothache was killer, then people would inhale fumes from a poisonous Henbane plant to attract evil spirits, but this was only a last ditch effort since Henbane was incredible lethal.
  • Apply a power made out of dried worms to the infected tooth – but, this would only work if the worms were in their mating season.
  • In medieval Germany, it was believed that you could cure your toothache by kissing a donkey.

In medieval times, people took drastic measure to try and cure their toothaches. As you’ve probably already surmised, none of these worked. They were founded in superstition and illogical thoughts. Thank goodness for science, right?
 

Modern Dentistry Myths

When it comes to curing a toothache, Dentistry has come a long way. But did you know that there are still a lot of common dental health myths in modern times?

Father of Modern Dentistry

Pierre Fauchard was a French dentist in 1728, who is known as the “father of modern dentistry.” Fauchard introduced dental fillings and made ample progress in dentistry. He even debunked the myth of the tooth worm and scientifically explained tooth decay to the masses.

However, even the father of modern dentistry participated in some off-the-wall dental myths. For one, Fauchard recommended that human urine could be used to treat tooth decay because of the ammonia in it.

This treatment would fly in the Middle Ages and ancient days. However, in the 18th century, patients weren’t keen on swishing with urine.

Myths Patients Still Believe

Have you ever heard that you can cure a toothache by rubbing an aspirin directly on your affected tooth? This is actually a myth.

When you topically apply aspirin to your mouth, it can actually lead to a pretty bad acid burn on your cheek. If your toothache is caused from enamel decay, the acid in the aspirin will actually make your enamel decay worse.

Some patients believe that a toothache means that they’ll lose the tooth. However, thankful to modern dentistry, dentists are able to save even the most rancorous of infections. So, if you’re suffering from intense tooth decay, make sure that you don’t accept it as lost. Save what you have.

Another common myth is that if you only occasionally have tooth pain, then you shouldn’t worry about it. A lot of tooth decay goes unnoticed because patients put their dental health on the backburner and ignore the early signs.

One of the earliest signs of tooth decay is sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweet. So, don’t ignore the signs. Get to your dentist and get your discomfort under control.

Give Us a Call

If you’re suffering from toothaches, don’t take extreme measures. Simply give us a call and come in for an appointment. We’ll diagnose the problem and get you on a track to having a healthy and beautiful smile.