Teeth have had a strange place in human history. For a long period of time, we knew little about modern dentistry, so we came up with stories or guessed about how we could treat our teeth. Below, I’ve compiled 5 of the weirdest and bizarre myths about teeth that have plagued our history:
5. George Washington had Wooden Teeth
For some reason, the idea that our first president and founding father George Washington had wooden teeth has become prevalent throughout the American mythos. We all grow up hearing these stories passed along from our parents, friends, and history teachers.
However, in reality, there’s very little evidence to support any claim that Washington might’ve had wooden teeth. Gold, lead, and ivory—sure; those were common materials for dentures at the time. But there were no commonly available dentures made of wood, and no one has ever discovered a pair of wood dentures belonging to President Washington.
4. Use of Urine to Treatment Cavities
Pierre Fauchard was a french physician, who is often referred to as “the father of modern dentistry.” Though he made many contributions to the field, he is also responsible for the strange treatment of suggesting patients use human urine to treat their cavities. Dr. Fauchard believed that the ammonia in urine (though not known to be ammonia at the time) was a beneficial agent in combating tooth decay and other contributors to human cavities.
3. Dreams of Teeth Falling Out
Surprisingly, one of the most common dreams people report is dreams of having their teeth fall out. Superstitions about the meanings of these dreams vary greatly. Some people believe it signifies a time of “rebirth” in someone’s life (like the loss of baby teeth, and becoming an adult) while others believe it represents personal insecurities, or regret saying something you should have (i.e. uncontrollable loss of something you thought you had control over—like teeth).
Nevertheless, this strange superstition has never been proven to accurately mean something one way or another but continues to be a common dream for many.
2. Lost Teeth Could Be Used to Control You
Many ancient civilizations had strange beliefs concerning teeth and power over other individuals. Popular belief held that practitioners of magic could use your baby teeth to exert control over you against your will. Therefore, the disposal of baby teeth was incredibly important in these civilizations to ensure that teeth would not fall into the wrong hands.
People would burn, bury, or sometimes even swallow their own teeth to prevent others from getting a hold of the keys to their bodies.
1. Tooth Worms
One of the oldest and strangest superstitions about teeth comes to us from nearly 7,000 years ago in Sumeria. Texts discovered from Sumerian civilizations reveal that people frequently complained of “tooth worms,” tiny worms they believed drilled into their teeth, lived there, and caused toothaches.
With years of advancement of dental knowledge, we now know that cavities were the cause of these ailments and not worms. Though this might seem obvious to modern humans, the Sumerians had some decent evidence to believe that it was worms that were the source of their troubles. After all, the holes that makeup cavities often appeared remarkably similar to holes tiny worms made digging into the ground or fruits. Still—the belief that worms might be living in teeth is a bizarre one and tops my list of strange teeth superstitions.