The Myth Of The Tooth Worm – The Origin Explained

Worms inside the body! Well, this ideology is not new. Our body is an ecosystem in itself, with all kinds of small organisms calling it home. Hence, worms are no exception as these pesky little fellows have adapted to survive and thrive inside our bodies. Worms are found mostly inside our gut, so the idea of tooth worm is quite bizarre. However, this odd concept of tooth worm was a dental ruling for a long time.

How Does The Tooth Worm Affect Oral Health?

Many people believed tooth worms caused cavities. Once ingested, these worms would drill through the enamel. Hence, after digging through the enamel, it would masticate the fleshy part of the tooth. When inside the teeth, these worms replicate in the presence of abundant food. However, if not taken care of, these worms will eat away the whole tooth. Consequently, the decay would be so adamant there would be no option but teeth removal. However, these explanations were only an attempt to explain cavities, and nobody found any sound evidence.

The Origin Of Tooth Worm:

Sumerian text first documented the tooth worm. Let me tell you, the Sumerians were one of the most ancient civilizations. Hence, the idea of the tooth worm was deep-rooted and stuck exceptionally well. Now, the question arises, why the view was so prevalent and was carried ahead for many centuries?

For an idea to stick so well, some pseudo evidence must be present. One cause can be the appearance of the pulp cavities. The tooth when decayed enough exposes the pulp cavities. Furthermore, the pulp has small thin nerve and blood vessel endings. These endings would pop out of the decayed tooth. An untrained eye would confuse these endings for a worm-like appearance.

Moreover, when the medieval dentist used to pluck out these endings, the patient experienced relief. Hence, this act further cemented the idea of the tooth worm.

Another possibility is of worm infected drinking water. In the past, people drank from a well or a lake. Worms like Guinea worm usually infect these water bodies. Guinea worm gives birth in cold water. Hence, people drinking infected water may have witnessed these worms giving birth. Therefore, many believed that the worms could get inside the mouth and lurk somewhere inside the tooth.

Modern Dentistry And The Myth Debunked:

Tooth worm was the part of many cultures for ages. However, with the onset of modern scientific basis and understanding in the 18th and 19th centuries, dentists challenged tooth worm. Further research into the cause of cavities found plaque bacteria as the culprit. Hence, this officially debunked the myth. However, it took time for the public to catch up on the discovery. Therefore, in the 19th-century, masses still believed in the tooth worm.


The idea of the tooth worm shows us an attempt of humans to explain a natural phenomenon. The concept of a worm wiggling inside our tooth was so strange and terrifying that it stuck for centuries to come. However, thanks to modern dentistry, we know the cause, and treatments of cavities. Hence, for more information about cavities, you can call us at 979-330-4113.

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