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Are Exploding Teeth a Hoax? Did Teeth Really Explode in the 1800s?

Posted on: June 8th, 2023 | Posted by | Posted in Dental History

You may have come across a popular science article that mentions exploding teeth in the 1800s and wondered if the article is a hoax. It’s worth being skeptical about something like this, especially since most of us, even the dentists at Nashua Dental Group, haven’t seen exploding teeth in our daily lives. But there is no arguing with the fact that these are not just any old stories, but rather reports in Dental Cosmos, a reputable scientific journals of the time.

Pop-science articles about the subject may have you believe that the reports ended in the 1920s, but that is not the case. There is a report of exploding teeth in the British Dental Journal from 1965 where a mother reports that her kids’ teeth exploded after they had naturally fallen out. This story does not match older stories, where the teeth exploded while sill in the patients’ mouths after causing much pain. There is an even more recent instance where a dentist talks about a tooth exploding, though one wonders if there might be some miscommunication since English is not that doctor’s first language.

Assuming the two instances above can be explained as misunderstandings and teeth haven’t exploded since the 1920s, why did teeth stop exploding? None of the current theories adequately explain why the teeth exploded in the first place and why they may have stopped around the 1920s. What we do know, however, is that experimental dental fillings became popular in the early 1800s, leading to results that were inconsistent and sometimes ineffective and dangerous. We also know that amalgam dental fillings were standardized in the 1920s by NIST (or National Bureau of Standards as it was known at the time). While old amalgam fillings have their own issues and people often want them replaced with composite fillings, it may have contributed to the decline in exploding teeth. This, however, is just a correlation; dentists still don’t know why teeth were exploding and why they may have stopped.

One thing we know for certain, dental treatments these days are backed by science and performed by professionals with years of schooling and professional experience, like the dentist in our Nashua dental office. Feel at ease knowing that despite the world having five times the people it did in 1900, there are fewer (if any) cases of exploding teeth. Whatever advancements that have happened in dental technology and access of dental care by local dentists have probably helped the era of exploding teeth come to an end.


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