FOR AS LONG AS there have been people, there has been tooth decay, but people in past civilizations didn’t have as many answers about what caused their tooth problems as we do now. That led to some very strange beliefs about dental health. One of the most common was the “tooth worm.”
Ancient Well-Intentioned Errors
As far back as 5000 B.C. in ancient Sumeria, people were blaming their cavities on tooth worms. They are mentioned in ancient Chinese scripts from 1500 B.C. too, and the Roman Empire and medieval Europeans also believed there were worms gnawing at their teeth.
How Did They Get it So Wrong?
Where did this idea come from? There are a few theories. Dental roots could maybe be described as worm-like, so people who didn’t know better might’ve assumed that was the case. They were also familiar with a variety of parasitic worms, including guinea worms in drinking water. They could’ve assumed something similar was affecting their teeth. They also used henbane seed treatments, and the ash of burned henbane seeds resembles worms.
What’s Really Causing cavities?
Although oral bacteria is something we must fight daily by brushing and flossing, tooth worms are, thankfully, a myth. The real culprit behind most cavities is sugar!