Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Do You Believe In 'Tooth Worms?' Micro-images Of Strange, Worm-like Structures Uncovered Inside Dissected Molar

Date:
July 28, 2009
Source:
University of Maryland Baltimore
Summary:
New, micro-images of strange, worm-like structures uncovered inside a dissected molar might have been held in ancient times as proof that gnawing tooth worms were the cause of tooth decay, a theory widely believed in many cultures before modern times. The structures are not worms, but what they are is still in question.

Scanning electron microscope image of worm-like structures 'growing' from dental tubules deep inside a molar.
Credit: University of Maryland, Baltimore

New, micro-images of strange, worm-like structures uncovered inside a dissected molar might have been held in ancient times as proof that gnawing tooth worms were the cause of tooth decay, a theory widely believed in many cultures before modern times.

The structures are not worms, but what they are is still in question.

Studies by University of Maryland Dental School researchers recently presented at the annual meeting of the Microscopy Society of America in Richmond revealed cylindrical objects extending or ‘growing’ out of the natural pores or tubules of teeth. Inside a human tooth, more than 50,000 such tubules per square millimeter act as channels running from the nerve up through the tooth. They are associated with transporting hot or cold sensitivity to the tooth nerve. [A human hair by comparison is 40 micrometers wide.]

For years, scientists have debated the exact nature of the worm-like structures, which were photographed in clear detail by Ru-Ching Hsia, director of the electron microscope core facility at the School.

Dentists’ explanations vary on nature and origin of the structures. “Most say ‘I have no idea.’ Others say they are made of bacteria, or minerals, or hyphal branches of yeast cells (C. albicans) which have infected the tooth structure, or perhaps they are a cellular process of the dentinal tubules,” said co-presenter Gary Hack, DDS, associate professor in the Dental School. For the sake of humoring his students, Hack says, tongue-in-cheek, “I call them tooth worms and I’m sticking to it.”

The aim of the Maryland study was to investigate the structures with scanning electron imagery and different specimen preparation techniques. The researchers’ observations raised new questions in the controversy over nature of the strange structures. For example, they found two of the cylinder structures within a single tubule, a discovery that challenges the hypothesis that the structures are cellular extensions.

The tubules ranged from 2.6 to 3.5 micrometers in diameter and the worm-like structures were smaller in the tubules in which they appeared. The structures were as long as 9 micrometers, extending out of the tubule opening. Whereas the majority of the structures appear to be hollow and devoid of any content, a number of these structures appear to be solid. The majority of the structures have a diameter ranging from 1.5 to 1.9 micrometers. Some of the structures appeared to be solid. Other pictures revealed a comparatively thin, hollow structure emerging from a single dentinal tubule.

Across the ages, both advanced civilizations and as far back as the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages believed in the tooth worm, with physicians prescribing various herbs, rinsings and fumigations.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Maryland Baltimore. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Maryland Baltimore. "Do You Believe In 'Tooth Worms?' Micro-images Of Strange, Worm-like Structures Uncovered Inside Dissected Molar." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090727205901.htm>.
University of Maryland Baltimore. (2009, July 28). Do You Believe In 'Tooth Worms?' Micro-images Of Strange, Worm-like Structures Uncovered Inside Dissected Molar. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090727205901.htm
University of Maryland Baltimore. "Do You Believe In 'Tooth Worms?' Micro-images Of Strange, Worm-like Structures Uncovered Inside Dissected Molar." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090727205901.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

AP (July 22, 2014) Sounding alarms about the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, CDC Director Tom Frieden warned Tuesday if the global community does not confront the problem soon, the world will be living in a devastating post-antibiotic era. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins