The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth Book Summary - The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth Book explained in key points
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The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth summary

Thomas Morris

And Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine

3.7 (78 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

"The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth" by Thomas Morris is a collection of strange and bizarre medical cases from history, showcasing the mystery and wonder of the human body.

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    The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth
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    In the past, successfully identifying illnesses was one of the greatest challenges facing doctors.

    When the International Classification of Diseases first emerged in 1893, it identified 161 separate medical disorders. The tenth edition, published a century later, listed upward of 12,000. 

    That huge increase suggests one of the main problems facing doctors in former times. Presented with a baffling and unfamiliar set of symptoms, they often had to try to cure diseases that hadn’t even been identified.

    Take the case of a Pennsylvanian dentist named W. H. Atkinson, who wrote to Dental Cosmos about a troubling phenomenon he had repeatedly encountered. Over his 40 years in the profession, Atkinson claimed to have treated patients with exploding teeth a number of times.

    At first, these patients were crippled by toothaches of extraordinary intensity. The pain was so bad that one man tried in vain to get relief by dunking his head in a nearby spring.

    Eventually, in every case, the tooth suddenly seemed to explode. Witnesses heard a loud noise like “a pistol shot” and the tooth immediately burst into fragments. With that, the pain was gone.

    Atkinson was puzzled – but he wasn’t the only dentist to encounter the condition. A book from 1874, Pathology and Therapeutics of Dentistry, also tells the story of a woman whose dental pain ended with the explosion of her tooth. Apparently, the force of the rupture almost knocked her over and left her entirely deaf for a period of time.

    The dentists who reported these cases each put forward their own explanations – but these rested on ideas that modern dentistry has since discarded. In their place, various other theories have been advanced, some blaming the chemicals used in fillings, others a build-up of electrical charge. But none of these explanations has been widely accepted.

    A simpler theory is that the patients were simply exaggerating. Teeth do sometimes break apart, and any unexpected noise in your own mouth must seem surprisingly loud! 

    But even this theory has its problems; if there was no real explosion, why would nearby witnesses claim to have heard the noise?

    It seems the mystery of the exploding teeth must remain unsolved for now. Other mysteries, we’ll find out, have turned out to have rather surprising answers.

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    What is The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth about?

    The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth (2018) charts some of the most interesting and unpredictable events in the emergence of modern medicine. From tragic operations to bizarre cures, these blinks explore a history of medicine that most doctors would prefer to ignore.

    The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth Review

    The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth (2018) delves deep into strange and bizarre medical cases that will pique your curiosity. Here's why this book is worth a read:

    • With its gripping narratives of medical mysteries, it keeps you engaged and wanting to uncover the truth behind these peculiar cases.
    • Through detailed research and expert analysis, the book offers fascinating insights into the history and development of medical knowledge.
    • Its quirky and unexpected stories will leave you amazed and entertained, proving that truth can indeed be stranger than fiction.

    Best quote from The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth

    Three hundred years ago, medics often had great difficulty telling the difference between coma and death.

    —Thomas Morris
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    Who should read The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth?

    • Medical workers interested in the hidden history of medicine
    • Science buffs keen to discover some of history’s wackiest medical theories
    • History nerds interested in a fascinating historical niche

    About the Author

    Thomas Morris is a London-based medical historian and writer. His first book The Matter of the Heart (2017) recounted the history of heart surgery and was awarded a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award. 

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    The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth?

    The main message of The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth is that strange and fascinating medical cases have the power to captivate our imagination.

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    The reading time for The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth can vary, but it typically takes several hours. However, you can read the Blinkist summary in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth is worth reading because it offers intriguing insights into bizarre and mysterious medical cases.

    Who is the author of The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth?

    The author of The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth is Thomas Morris.

    What to read after The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth?

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