18th century sculpture depicts how people used to believe "tooth worms" caused cavities

Here's one special sculpture called "The Tooth Worm as Hell's Demon". This ivory sculpture of two hollow tooth halves, each depicting a spooky scene inside, was born out of the old belief that "tooth worms" were responsible for toothache and decay. 

The idea of the tooth worm was based on the fact that worms are sometimes found in other parts of the body, like the stomach. Before modern medicine,  it made sense to people that the same worms could make their way inside of teeth, too. I can't imagine the anxiety people must have had while sitting there, thinking that worms were wiggling around inside of their aching teeth. I'm extremely glad that tooth worms are not actually a thing.

I once had quite the toothache, and the description of the artwork sums up how it felt: "On the right, the tooth worm devours a man. On the left, the torment of a toothache is equated with the fires of hell."  Tooth Worms may not be real, but I won't argue with anyone who equates a toothache with the fires of hell.

Photo courtesy German Museum for the History of Medicine. Photo: Michael Kowalski.