Text: David E. E. Sloane, “Addenda One,” Early Nineteenth-Century Medicine in Poe’s Short Stories, Master of Arts Thesis, Duke University, 1966, addendum (This material is protected by copyright)


Benjamin Rush, “An Account of the Cure of Several Diseases by the Extraction of Decayed Teeth,” from Medical Inquiries and Observations (Philadelphia: Mathew Cary, 1809, I, 349-353:

[page 349:]


SOME time in the month of October, 1801, I attended Miss A. C. with a rheumatism in her hip joint, which yielded for a while, to the several remedies for that disease. In the month of November, it returned with great violence, accompanied with a severe tooth-ache. Suspecting the rheumatic affection was .excited by the pain in the tooth, which was decayed, I directed it to be extracted. The rheumatism immediately left her hip, and she recovered in a few days. She has continued ever since to be free from it.

Soon after this, I was consulted by Mrs. J. R., who had been affected for several weeks with dyspepsia and tooth-ache. Her tooth, though no mark of decay appeared in it, was drawn by my advice. The next day she was relieved from her distressing stomach complaints, and has continued ever since to enjoy good health. From the soundness of the external part of the tooth and the adjoining [page 350:] gum, there was no reason to suspect a discharge of matter from it had produced the disease in her stomach.

Some time in the year 1801, I was consulted by the father of a young gentleman in Baltimore, who had been affected with epilepsy. I inquired into the state of his teeth, and was informed that several of them in his upper jaw were much decayed. I directed them to be extracted, and advised him afterwards to lose a few ounces of blood, at any time when he felt the premonitory symptoms of a recurrence of his fits. He followed my advice, in consequence of which, I had lately the pleasure of hearing from his brother that he was perfectly cured.

I have been made happy by discovering that I have only added to the observations of other physicians, in pointing out a connection between the extraction of decayed and diseased teeth, and the cure of general diseases. Several cases of the efficacy of that remedy, in relieving head-ach and vertigo, are mentioned by Dr. Darwin. Dr. Faber relates that Mr. Pettit, a celebrated French surgeon, had often cured intermitting fevers which had resisted the bark for months, and even years, by this prescription; and. he quotes from his works [page 351:] two cases, the one of consumption, the other of vertigo, both of long continuance, which were suddenly cured by the extraction of two decayed teeth in the former, and of two supernumerary teeth in the latter case.*

In the second number of a late work, entitled “Bibliotheque Germanique Medico-chirurgicale,” published in Paris, by Dr. Bluver and Dr. Delaroche, there is an account, by Dr. Siebold, of a young woman who had been affected for several months with great inflammation, pain and ulcers in her right upper and lower jaws, at the usual time of the appearance of the catamenia, which at that period were always deficient in quantity. Upon inspecting the seat of those morbid affections, the Doctor discovered several of the molares in both jaws to be decayed. He directed them to be drawn, in consequence of which, the woman was relieved of the monthly disease in her mouth, and afterwards had a regular discharge of her catamenia.

These facts, though but little attended to, should not surprise us, when we recollect how often the [page 352:] most distressing general diseases are brought on by very inconsiderable inlets of morbid excitement into the system. A small tumour, concealed in a fleshy part of the leg, has been known to bring on epilepsy. A trifling wound with a splinter or a nail, even after it hah healed, has often induced a fatal tetanus. Worms in the bowels have produced internal dropsy of the brain, and a stone in the kidney has excited the most violent commotions in every part of the system. Many hundred facts of a similar nature are to be met with in the records of medicine.

When we consider how often the teeth, when decayed, are exposed to irritation from heat, and cold drinks, and aliments, from pressure, by mortification, and from the cold air, and how intricate the connexion of the mouth is with the whole system, I am disposed to believe that they are often the unsuspected cause of general, and particularly nervous diseases. When we add to the list of those diseases, the morbid effects of the acrid and putrid matter discharged from carious teeth, or from ulcers in the gums created by them, also the influence which both have in preventing perfect mastication, and the connection of that animal function with good health; I cannot help thinking, that our success in the treatment of [page 353:] all chronic diseases would be very much promoted by an examination of the condition of the teeth, and by advising their extraction in every instance in which they are found to be decayed. It is not necessary that they should be attended with pain in order to produce disease, for splinters, tumors, and other irritants often bring on diseases and death, when they give no pain, and are the unsuspected causes of them. This transition of sensation, and motion to parts remote from the place where impressions are made, appears in many instances, and seems to depend upon an original law of the economy.



[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 351:]

*  Recherches sur differens Points de Physiologie de Pathologie et de Therapeutique, p. 353-354







[S:0 - ENCMPSS, 1966] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Early Nineteenth-Century Medicine in Poe's Short Stories - Addenda One (D. E. E. Sloane, 1966)