Consider yourself lucky. If you have a toothache, a cavity that needs to be filled or any other dental problem, you can easily get in touch with your friendly dentist.
But our ancestors never had it this good. They had to go to great lengths to see a dentist. If one wasn’t available, they simply ignored the problem hoping it would go away (in most cases it didn’t) or sought solace in several toothache remedies that have no scientific basis. Below is a rundown of what our forefathers had to go through to stop a toothache.
In the early days, many people thought that a toothache was caused by a tooth worm. This belief originated in Mesopotamia in 1800 B.C. and persisted until the 18th century. It was shared by many cultures including the peoples of India, Egypt, Japan and China.
“Many believed that the tooth worm bore a hole through your tooth, stubbornly hiding beneath the surface. It caused a toothache by wriggling around, and the pain subsided once the worm rested. Although no one could tell you exactly what the creature looked like, it had taken on many forms over the years. British folklore had the tooth worm resembling an eel. Germans believed the maggot-like worm was red, blue and gray in color. But much like the modern legends of the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, there is no real proof that tooth worms ever existed,” said 1800Dentist.com.
To stop this critter, the Aztecs of Mexico recommended chewing on hot chili. In Scotland, it was believed that a caterpillar wrapped in red cloth and placed under the aching tooth could counteract the pain caused by tooth worms.
If that didn’t work, Indian surgeon Vagbhata who lived around 650 A.D. had a more radical solution. He advised filling the cavity of an aching tooth with wax and burning it with a hot probe.
“Treatments for the tooth worm varied depending on the culture and era it resided in. In ancient times, doctors believed the tooth’s nerve was the tooth worm! Once the dental crown was removed, the worm-like nerve was pulled out. Surprisingly, it may have relieved some of the patients’ pain, considering a toothache will usually come into play when the nerve is affected by tooth decay,” said 1800Dentist.com.
Fumigation was the method prescribed by Scribonius Largus, the personal doctor of Roman Emperor Claudius. To eliminate toothworms, he said the patient should rinse the mouth with hot water afterwards. Another advocate of fumigation was the Islamic physician Avicenna who lived from 980-1037 A.D. and said:
“Take four grains each of henbane and leek seeds and two and one-half onions; knead these with goat fat until smooth, and from this paste make pills with a weight of one dirham (a silver coin); burn one pill in a funnel under a covering of the patient’s head.”
Gross is the word for the toothache cure used by the ancient Egyptians. They stopped the pain by killing a mouse and applying it on the aching tooth!
Ancient author and naturalist Pliny the Elder became famous for his 37-volume “Natural History”, an important reference used for centuries by many scholars. However, he had some pretty weird ideas for curing a toothache.
He told sufferers to catch a frog under a full moon, open its mouth and spit into it while saying, “Frog, go, and take my toothache with thee!”
“The Talmud, the collection of ancient rabbinical writings that constitutes the basis of religious authority in Orthodox Judaism, notes that sour fruit juice is supposed to be good for a toothache. Another recommendation involved placing a garlic clove ground with oil and salt on the thumbnail, with a rim of dough around it,” according to Delta Dental of New Jersey.
For the more adventurous, go to a graveyard and get a tooth from a corpse. When worn as an amulet, this ghastly souvenir will supposedly protect you from toothaches as the English believe.
Surprisingly, one ancient toothache remedy that works is oil of cloves. The Atlanta Dental Group said this reduces tooth pain when placed directly into a tooth cavity. Use cotton buds to do this or insert a small cotton ball soaked with oil of cloves into the cavity.