The Mysterious Case of Exploding Teeth

March 3, 2016

In the 19th Century, a Pennsylvania dentist called WH Atkinson came across a condition that sounds like the stuff of nightmares. Writing in The Dental Cosmos, the first major journal for American dentists, Atkinson documented an outbreak of exploding teeth.

He saw it in three patients. The first, the Reverend DA from Springfield, went through this unpleasant ordeal in 1817:

The right superior canine or first bicuspid commenced aching, increasing in intensity to such a degree as to set him wild. During his agonies he ran about here and there, in the vain endeavor to obtain some respite; at one time boring his head on the ground like an enraged animal, at another poking it under the corner of the fence, and again going to the spring and plunging his head to the bottom in the cold water.

Not terribly dignified behaviour for a clergyman, which gives you some idea of how much pain he must have been in. Toothache could be sheer torture in the era before cheap and effective dentistry: an inquest in Sussex in 1862 heard how a man took his own life after a toothache lasting five months, “during which time he was observed to cry, day by day, for hours together”. The unfortunate priest had a happier outcome:

All proved unavailing, till, at 9:00 the next morning, as he was walking the floor in wild delirium, all at once a sharp crack, like a pistol shot, bursting his tooth to fragments, gave him instant relief. At this moment he turned to his wife, and said, “My pain is all gone.” He went to bed, and slept soundly all that day and most of the succeeding night; after which he was rational and well.

Thirteen years after this distressing incident, something similar happened to a patient known as a Mrs Letitia D, who lived only a few miles away. She suffered a prolonged toothache, “terminating by bursting with report, giving immediate relief”.

The final case in this trio of dental disasters occurred in 1855. Mrs Anna PA reported that one of her canines split from front to back:

A sudden, sharp report, and instant relief, as in the other cases, occurred in the left superior canine. She is living and healthy, the mother of a family of fine girls.

Although unusual, these stories are not unique. The editors at the British Dental Journal recently highlighted a lively correspondence from its archives, originally printed in 1965, detailing many other tales of detonating dentine throughout history.

Read More: Here

0 comment