The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth | Thomas Morris

Summary of: The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth: And Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine
By: Thomas Morris


Delve into the fascinating world of peculiar medical cases, centuries-old treatments, and the evolution of modern medicine with the summary of Thomas Morris’ ‘The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth: And Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine’. As you embark on this unusual journey, expect remarkable accounts of diseases and conditions that might leave you baffled yet captivated. The book also explores historic treatments like bloodletting and introduces you to the era of ‘heroic’ surgeries that, though shocking, helped shape today’s medical practices. Perfect for those with a taste for the bizarre, this summary will broaden your understanding of the medical field’s past and the seemingly impossible cases it encountered.

The Mystery of Exploding Teeth

The International Classification of Diseases has identified over 12,000 medical disorders. But in former times, doctors often struggled to cure unidentified diseases. Take the case of patients with exploding teeth where the tooth exploded, and the pain suddenly vanished. Dentists who reported these cases put forward their own explanations, some blaming the chemicals used in fillings, others a build-up of electrical charge. However, none of these explanations has been widely accepted. Even the theory that patients were exaggerating has its problems. The mystery of the exploding teeth remains unsolved for now.

Objects Inside the Body

People have been putting foreign objects in their bodies for many years, and it is more common than you may think. Medical records have documented many cases of objects like forks, knives, and even light bulbs getting stuck in patients’ bodies. Some individuals attempt to solve constipation by inserting objects rectally, and others swallow objects as party tricks. These accidents keep overworked doctors occupied as they extract foreign objects from patients’ bodies. Unfortunately, foreign objects can cause severe internal damage, leading to death in some cases.

Deadly Medical Procedures

In the past, doctors prescribed treatments that could be as harmful as the illnesses they were meant to cure. Bleeding, bloodletting, and other reckless procedures were common, with no scientific basis for their effectiveness. This summary highlights the story of Lord Anthony Grey, who became a victim of old-fashioned medical quackery. Dr. Charles Goodall tried various procedures to revive the earl, including bloodletting, applying snuff and chemical solutions in his nostrils, and searing his scalp with a hot frying pan. Ultimately, none of these techniques worked, and Goodall had to give up. Despite the absurdity of these treatments, they were once recommended by supposedly knowledgeable doctors, making surgery seem like a more merciful option in comparison.

The Grim Reality of Early Surgery

Before anesthesia and antiseptic practices, surgeries were excruciating and life-threatening. “Heroic” surgery was often groundbreaking but highly risky. The sad case of Hoo Loo, a poor Chinese laborer with elephantiasis, showcases this era’s grim reality. His long, painful, and ultimately unsuccessful operation was witnessed by 680 people and led to soul-searching in the medical community. Hoo Loo’s tragic experience marked the end of the “heroic” era of surgery.

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