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ScienceDaily (July 28, 2009) — New, micro-images of strange, worm-like structures uncovered inside a dissected molar might have been held in ancient times as proof that gnawing tooth worms were the cause of tooth decay, a theory widely believed in many cultures before modern times.
The structures are not worms, but what they are is still in question.
Across the ages, both advanced civilizations and as far back as the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages believed in the tooth worm, with physicians prescribing various herbs, rinsings and fumigations.
Do You Believe In Tooth Worms?
Studies by University of Maryland Dental School researchers’ presented today at the annual meeting of the Microscopy Society of America in Richmond revealed cylindrical objects extending or ‘growing’ out of the natural pores or tubules of teeth. Inside a human tooth, more than 50,000 such tubules per square millimeter act as channels running from the nerve up through the tooth. They are associated with transporting hot or cold sensitivity to the tooth nerve. [A human hair by comparison is 40 micrometers wide.]
"Beware the evil tooth worm, who has rooted itself in the in the deep, dark cavities of your being. This bone-chilling, bloodcurdling monster is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, yet its presence will create considerable damage and cause you great pain. Once it gets under your gums, your teeth will never be the same again!"
Dental treatment 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.