Tootthache:Myths & Facts

Dr Akinola Akindele

15th Mar, 2016



MYTH: Worms cause toothache.

It is a common and ubiquitous belief among young and old, illiterates, semi-literate and the learned that worms are responsible for toothache. It is further believed that removal of the offending worms is tantamount to completely eradicating the root cause of the toothache. Invariably, people seek means of eradicating the worms rather than dealing with the root cause of the toothache.

FACT: Bacteria are the culprit in the causation of toothache, to be specific, Streptococcus spps (S. mutans and S.sobrinus) and Lactobacilli are the major bacteria implicated in causing tooth decay which will eventually lead to toothache. These are minute microorganisms that cannot be seen with the naked eyes but with the aid of a light microscope. Another cogent point to note is that these bacteria are normal flora I.e. inhabitants of our mouth and will only cause tooth decay if oral/mouth hygiene is poor and if there is persistent presence of refined sugar in the mouth.


Myth: Solution to all toothache is extraction.

Probably because of the excruciating and lancinating nature of toothache, most patients are quick to conclude on extracting their teeth, even when other remedies and therapies can be proffered. Also as a result of the poor awareness of dental care, a vast majority of the populace believe a dentist is a person that extracts teeth.

FACT: Extraction is usually the last resort in the treatment option scale of a dentist, when other possible options e.g. Amalgam/composite/GIC filings, root canal therapy, deep curettage etc. have all failed, then extraction can be indicated. Also a dentist caters for the entire mouth and these include but not limited to the teeth, gums, cheeks, tongue, lips, palate, facial bones etc. hence not restricted to just tooth extraction.


MYTH: When you extract a tooth, you will subsequently extract more as time goes on

A common erroneous belief is that when a person has an extraction done, the supposed worms causing the ache are translated to the adjacent sound teeth, thereby resulting in the extraction of the adjacent tooth, hence the vicious cycle continues.

FACT: You can't do things the same way and expect a different result, “impossicant “. The basic causes of toothache which are frequent consumption of refined sugar and poor oral hygiene, which the person engaged in and made him/her to lose the tooth is still not under check, hence continues unabated. Invariably, there's high possibility of losing more teeth. Also, as explained earlier, worms don’t cause toothache, bacteria do.


MYTH: Alcohol, petrol and acid are potent remedies for toothache. A weird and bizarre belief amongst the populace is that the above listed fluids are potent in relieving toothache. Sadly, this has gone viral, and it's been passed from generation to generation, thereby misinforming kids from the cradle.

FACT: Instead of their supposed potency, they cause ulceration i.e sores in the mouth, they also cause vasoconstriction i.e thinning of the blood vessels around the offending tooth, thereby worsening the ache. They often mistake peppery or burning sensation competency and also get carried away by the temporal relieve which is usually short-lived.


MYTH: Extraction is a painful procedure

A popular belief is that extraction is a very painful procedure, the reason, not far-fetched, the level of pain the fellow had experienced before coming to seek treatment. They often conclude that if they can be feeling this level of pain prior to removal, extraction will be worse off.


FACT: Ironically, extraction is a painless procedure. Quite often, the anxiety people experience before coming to the dental clinic is way more than the extraction processes. With the aid of a local anesthetic agent, the part of the mouth where extraction is to be done is numbed, subsequently, the removal is done without pain.

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