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The Legend of the Tooth Worm

The Legend of the Tooth Worm

By germana

When these worms are in the teeth, they multiply when there is a lot of food. But if you don’t do anything, these worms will eat the whole tooth. So, the decay would be so bad that the only solution would be to pull the teeth. But these explanations were just people’s best guesses about what caused cavities, and no one found solid proof.

How Tooth Worms Began

The tooth worm was first written about in Sumerian texts. Let me tell you that the Sumerians were one of the oldest groups of people who ever lived. So, the idea of the tooth worm took hold and stayed with people very well. Now, the question is why this view was so familiar and stuck around for so long.

There must be some fake proof for an idea to stick so well. The presence of pulp cavities can be one cause. When the tooth decays enough, the pulp cavities are shown. Also, there are small, thin nerve and blood vessel ends in the pulp. When the tooth was decayed, these ends would pop out of the tooth. 

Also, when the medieval dentist pulled out these ends, it made the patient feel better. So, this act made the idea of the tooth worm even stronger.

Worms could also get into the water supply and make drinking unsafe. Worms like the Guinea worm often live in these bodies of water. The birth of a Guinea worm happens in cold water. So, people who drank water that had worms in it might have seen these worms give birth. So, many people thought that the worms could get into the mouth and hide in the tooth.

Modern Dentistry And The Myth Debunked

Tooth worms have always been a part of many cultures. But in the 18th and 19th centuries, when modern science and knowledge came about, dentists began to fight tooth worms. Plaque bacteria were found to cause cavities after more research was done. So, this proves that the myth isn’t true. But it took a while for the public to catch on to what had been found. So, many people still believed in the tooth worm in the 19th century.


The idea of the tooth worm shows how people have tried to explain things that happen in nature. The idea of a worm moving around in our teeth was so strange and scary that it stuck around for hundreds of years. But thanks to modern dentistry, we know why cavities happen and how to treat them.