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Ivory carvings: "The tooth worm as Hell's demon", southern France, 18th Century; This artistically designed carving is contained in a molar, 10.5 cm in height, which can be separated into two halves of equal size. It opens out into two scenes depicting the infernal torments of toothache as a battle with the "tooth worm". The legend of the "tooth worm" as the cause of toothache originated in Mesopotamia around 1800 B.C. A legend, in much the same sense as that of the Creation, concerning the origin of the tooth worm is to be found in the inscriptions on ancient tablets from 1800 B.C., and from the New Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods of 650 and 550 B.C. in the following form:
"When Anu created the Sky,
the Sky created the Rivers,
The Rivers created the Valleys,
the Valleys created the Swamps,
the Swamps created the Worm,
the Worm went to Samas and wept.
His tears flow before Ea.
"What will you give me to eat, what will you give me to such?"
"I'll give you a ripe fig, apricots and apple juice." "What use are a ripe fig,
an apricot and apple juice to me?
Lift me up! Let me dwell 'twixt teeth and gum!
I'll suck the blood from the teeth
and gnaw the roots in their gums."
"Because you have said this, 0 Worm, may
Ea sinke you with his mighty hand!"
|Fauchard and Pfaff (1712 - 1766) were the first to question this myth. Both completely rejected the tooth worm. Pfaff, however, writes cautiously that he has never come across the tooth worm "despite all my efforts", but that he would not like "to dispute the observations of learned doctors."|
Photos and text copyright. Wolfgang O. Funk (W.O.F.). D51427 Bergisch Gladbach, Germany.
Tel. ++49 2204 61228. FAX ++49 2204 22859.
Photo and description are from the annual art print calendar, History of Dental Medicine and Dental Technology. May 1996.
|A Vignette from Dental History
A legal decision on the ownership of false teeth--1893
|A peculiar suit has been decided in St. Paul, Minn. In the case of Charles A. Vanduce vs William J. Woolsey, it has been claimed that the sheriff could take possession of the plate to which the false teeth were attached and dispose of the whole at a public auction. But Judge Kelly has decided that a dentist has no lien on a set of teeth on a plate after they have been attached to the patient's mouth; as so long as the teeth are in the defendant's mouth they are part of his body and cannot be seized as chattels. The case has been before the courts for some time, and attracted widespread attention. In Periscope, Dental Cosmos,S, 1263: 1893.|
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Credits for this Dental History site
Norman O. Harris, DDS
Herr Wolfgang O. Funk, Werbeagentur, Bergisch Gladback, Germany
Date of last update: July 23, 2007
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