A lot of things make excellent do-it-yourself projects. Dentistry, especially a tooth extraction, isn’t on that list.
It’s no secret that medical costs are on the rise. Even with insurance, a simple procedure can land someone with massive debt. The dental industry is possibly worse than that. Most people avoid the dentist for one reason or another. A lot of people are terrified of entering a dentist’s office. Others are scared of the impending bill. Still, we all have to give in and bite the bullet eventually. After all, we can brush our teeth until we’re blue in the face, but we’ll never buff out our cavities with a cheap plastic toothbrush. Likewise, once your wisdom teeth start causing discomfort, it’s time for a professional.
Look, we get it. Your mouth hurts from four different impacted wisdom teeth. You don’t really feel like adding more pain to your wallet. It can be tempting to just pull the teeth yourself. After all, how hard can it be? The childhood cliché for getting rid of baby teeth involves a piece of string and a slamming door. Wisdom teeth are an entirely different league from baby teeth. Still, the Internet is full of anonymous users on forums asking how to remove their wisdom teeth at home.
Why is this even a trend? Most sane people would never attempt removing their own tonsils, for example. Ultimately, it comes down to costs. WebMD reports that the average cost of an impacted wisdom tooth removal can cost over $340 a tooth. If you’re lucky enough to have four impacted teeth, you’re looking at paying almost $1,400. Insurance could help this burden – if you decided to purchase a policy. The cost of dental insurance in this country is typically absurdly low, especially compared to medical insurance. Despite this, only 77% of Americans carry dental insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, all Americans are required to carry medical insurance, but there are no such requirements for dental insurance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a third of all Americans haven’t visited a doctor in the past year. Cost is the reason why. It isn’t just the United States either. In 2012, the British Dental Health Foundation “found that one in five Britons said they would remove a tooth themselves or ask a friend to do so if they could not afford dental treatment.” Ouch.
As the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. One New Zealand man decided to try his hand at DIY dentistry with disastrous results. Charles Llewell, 44, recently went viral when he recorded his attempt to unburden himself of his third molars. Llewell had fallen on hard times. He had just recently unemployed thanks to a back injury. The single father was short on money and had a child to feed.
Llewell needed a wisdom tooth removed. After visiting a dentist, Llewell was quoted $1,500NZ to remove his infected tooth. Dishing out that kind of money just wasn’t an option. After years of suffering, he pulled the top part of the infected tooth out with pliers. Soon, his wisdom tooth became infected. In fact, it had an exposed nerve. When food hit this nerve, the pain was excruciating. The man would pick the food out of the wound with a pocketknife. While the root of the tooth remained, so did his pain.
“The drill was my last hope,” Llewell told the NZ Herald. “I felt I had no choice.”
The desperate man took matters into his own hands. On that fateful night, he attempted to numb himself with whiskey. He armed himself with a power drill and, interestingly, his cell phone camera. Yes, whether it was the whiskey or the adrenaline, the New Zealander decided to record his DIY oral surgery. With an impressively steady hand, Llewell drilled the sharp points of the tooth, according to the NZ Herald. In the end, he couldn’t remove it all and he still was in pain.
Thankfully, Llewell contacted a New Zealand-based charity named Revive A Smile. Dr. Assil Russell started the award-winning dental charity in 2011. According to the organization’s website, Russell runs the charity under the attitude of “caring creates change.” Thanks to a compassionate team of volunteers, free dental care is given to those in need. Services are typically rendered in the organization’s mobile dental clinic. Thanks to the work of Revive a Smile, Charles Llewell now enjoys a pain-free mouth.
Charities and nonprofits, like Revive a Smile, are looking to combat the rising cost of dental care. As a rule, most of these organizations target children or the disabled. For example, America’s ToothFairy is a non-profit that has provided oral health services and resources to American children since 2006. Several organizations, though, do focus on adults. In Florida, Project: Dentists Care is an organization of dentists who donate their time and services to low-income patients. Give Back a Smile is a wonderful program that provides cosmetic dental work to domestic abuse victims. Likewise, most area’s health departments can offer dental services on a sliding slide.
If you thought Charles Llewell’s power drill operation was just a fluke and not an example of a growing trend, we have bad news for you. If you’re squeamish, avoid a Google search of “DIY tooth removal.” There are even tutorials teaching viewers how to pull their own teeth out of jaws. The graphic videos of people jamming pliers into their mouths are distressing to watch. The pain is evident. There’s usually a good deal of blood. One particular video’s description reads, “Do not try this at home. Probably best [to go] to the dentist next time.” Despite this clear warning, the top comment on the video is someone asking, “Anyone else here because they are considering doing this?”
If you are currently struggling with wisdom tooth pain, there are resources available to you. While you may gain your 15 minutes of viral fame from recording your botched procedure, it’s just not worth it to DIY oral surgery. You can visit the website for the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons to find an oral surgeon near you. You can also ask your dentist for his or her recommendation. If you need financial assistance, check your area for low-income dental services.