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'Exploding teeth' case continues to perplex

Posted on Friday, 4 March, 2016 | Comment icon 14 comments

Dentistry in the 19th Century wasn't like it is today. Image Credit: CC By 4.0 Wellcome Library, London
Back in the 19th Century a Pennsylvania dentist wrote about a bizarre and nightmarish dental phenomenon.
The first reported case of this anomalous condition was in 1817 when a clergyman from Springfield reported experiencing excrutiating pain in one of his teeth that nobody was able to explain.

"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," wrote Dentist WH Atkinson.

Most intriguing of all however was what eventually relieved the poor Reverend of his discomfort.

"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," Atkinson wrote.

Another similar case of 'exploding teeth' occurred 13 years later when a woman who lived nearby also experienced extreme toothache which disappeared after a sudden 'bursting' of the tooth.

The phenomenon was also reported in 1871 by dentist J Phelps Hibler who treated a young woman whose excruciating toothache suddenly concluded when her tooth 'exploded' with such force and at such high volume that it knocked her over and caused her to go deaf for several days afterwards.

One possible explanation for this bizarre condition revolves around the idea that decay within a tooth can cause a build-up of gas that eventually explodes, however Hugh Devlin, Professor in Restorative Dentistry at the University of Manchester’s School of Dentistry, has his doubts.

"It is highly unlikely that gas could build up in a tooth sufficient to cause it to explode – teeth are extremely strong," he said.

Another theory is that a combination of two different metals within a patient's filling can potentially produce a spontaneous electrolysis effect and a build-up of hydrogen within the tooth, however there is nothing to indicate that any of the patients actually had any fillings.

The phenomenon, it seems, remains as much of a mystery now as it was almost 200 years ago.

Source: | Comments (14)

Tags: Exploding Teeth, Dentist

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #5 Posted by seeder on 4 March, 2016, 4:50
Perhaps a build up of gasses caused by rot too
Comment icon #6 Posted by Ell on 4 March, 2016, 23:13
The pulpa is naturally at a very high pressure, causing the dentals to function as shock-absorbers - which is very necessary with all the chewing they do. The exploding teeth seem to be an extreme variant of this natural and ordinary phenomenon of high pressure pulpae.
Comment icon #7 Posted by highdesert50 on 5 March, 2016, 0:04
Perhaps odontogenic tumors, that is tumors of the jaw that form from tooth tissue. I best I recall, there are a variety to include some that become a part of a tooth, continue to grow, and could, I imagine, shatter a tooth. Much to thankful for with regard to modern dentistry.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Mark56 on 5 March, 2016, 2:27
I have a really cute Dentist. She's Chinese or Korean, not sure, and looks like she's in her early, mid 20's or so (I'm sure she's much older). I'm so smitten with her gentle femininity that all all my anxiety about going to the dentist just melts away.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Lilly on 5 March, 2016, 2:49
Why didn't they just pull the offending tooth? This really makes little sense IMO.
Comment icon #10 Posted by qxcontinuum on 6 March, 2016, 5:55
what's her number ?
Comment icon #11 Posted by Dragan on 7 March, 2016, 15:25
Comment icon #12 Posted by GooteyBootey on 11 March, 2016, 4:30
Ugh I'm on a forum about the paranormal, and THIS is by far the creepiest thing I've seen. Didn't need to sleep anyway...
Comment icon #13 Posted by seeder on 11 March, 2016, 4:38
thats the thing with lady-boys... they make you feel special,,,,,

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