GRIPPING hard onto his pliers, Debroy Parrington took a deep breath and prepared to use all his strength to pull down and rip out his own tooth.
The granddad-of-five had been driven to take drastic action after days of agonising pain from an infected tooth, with no option of seeing a dentist for professional help in the height of lockdown.
He’s far from alone, as a recent study found one in four British households opted for at least one form of DIY dentistry during lockdown.
Local practices were told to suspend routine face-to-face services on March 25 and to set up local UDC hubs to treat patients with urgent needs. But it’s meant a huge backlog now, with people still struggling to get appointments.
A poll, carried out by the Association of Dental Groups, found 7.6 per cent of those had tried to extract a tooth themselves – and experts are now warning of the dangers of trying it at home.
“Trying to extract your own tooth often leads to permanent damage and more trips to the dentist to get it put right,” Neil Carmichael, the Association’s Chair, tells Sun Online.
“It can allow harmful bacteria into the bloodstream and it often leaves the door wide open to cavities and infection.”
Here Brits share how they were driven to take dangerous measures to end their pain…
Debroy, 74, from Warrington was overwhelmed with pain in April when one of his teeth became badly infected.
But despite calling his local dentist, he was told he wouldn’t be allowed a prescription for antibiotics without being seen. At that point, they were only seeing urgent emergencies.
“I don’t know what could have been worse than that tooth ache,” he says. “I left them a message but before they called back I lanced it myself.
“I had a lump on the side of the tooth, on the gum, so I heated a hat pin up on the stove and I punctured it. Some gunge came out and it did ease the throbbing. Needs must.
“I’m on my own and it was really driving me round the twist. It was painful when I tried to eat.
“I refused to take painkillers because it only masks the problem. I was managing the pain, but I needed antibiotics.”
Debroy says when he spoke to his dentist later that night, he told him what he’d done and that he was washing it regularly with salt water. He was advised to continue doing that and get in touch if it got worse.
However he says he was hesitant to go to the dentist after seeing some of his family members get Covid.
“I haven’t been seeing my family, someone’s been getting my food, and I’ve been on my own here isolated from everyone,” Debroy says.
“When you’re on your own in a situation like that… it’s bloody soul-destroying. Then adding that pain in, it drives you round the bend.
“It got to the Saturday evening and I just couldn’t stand the pain anymore.
“I went and got a pair of pliers out my toolbox, sat down, and decided to pull it out.
“I didn’t have a drink or take any pain killers but I did think, ‘am I doing the right thing here?’
“I cleaned the pliers with a handkerchief, got a grip of the tooth and fortunately it was in a good spot for me to be able to pull down. It was on the top on the left.
“It did take a while to pluck up the courage. It was painful when I got hold of it, but I didn’t waggle it about of anything. I just tugged it straight out.
“It bled a little bit but it was immediate relief. And it’s never given me any trouble since.”
Debroy, who sadly lost his wife to cancer four years ago, admits his grandkids were baffled when he told them what he’d done and jokes: “We’re tough from where we come from. I’m from a family of 12 so you’ve got to be tough.
“I wouldn’t recommend it, but each to their own. Pain can drive you to all sorts. There’s nothing worse than tooth ache.”
Robert Crossett, 64, from Stafford also resorted to using his own strength to remove an infected tooth in April.
He says one of his bottom back teeth had become loose and infected, causing him “agonising, throbbing pain all the time”.
“I couldn’t eat properly and I couldn’t sleep with it,” he says. “I took paracetamols to try and kill the pain… You just can’t sleep, it was waking me up.
“In the end I thought ‘enough’s enough’.”
Robert says he knew everything was shut down and was aware a dentist appointment was out of the question.
“I could feel the tooth was loose in my gum. It was on the bottom towards the back, and I’d feel it with my tongue and was waggling it,” he recalls.
“I eventually sat down at the dining room table and literally sat for two hours trying to turn it 360 degrees.
“In the end, I just grabbed hold of it, drove my fingers up and ripped it out. It came out with the roots and everything.
“It was awful pain and it started to bleed and bleed. I packed it with cotton wool and took some more pain killers. Within four or five hours the pain virtually vanished.
“It was such a relief. My wife couldn’t believe what I’d done when I walked into the room with this great big tooth with a root sticking out, blood dripping down!”
He says he’s now desperately trying to get an appointment to have it checked over, but is still struggling.
“It’s an absolute nightmare,” he admits.
Neil Alexander, 46, from south east London was forced to apply his own temporary filling in lockdown as he struggled to see his dentist.
After battling pain from one of his teeth earlier this year, Neil, who is a writer working on a forthcoming novel Margaret Small Sings a Rainbow, eventually had a root canal which was a success at the time.
However, the week before lockdown he was told his dentist was having to self-isolate – meaning his follow-up appointment to have a permanent filling was delayed.
“Obviously it just had a temporary filling covering it, so the actual structure of the tooth was quite weakened anyway,” he recalls.
“I really wanted to avoid having to lose another tooth.”
Sadly lockdown then came, the appointment never happened, and he was left with just the temporary filling.
Neil had pain whenever he bit into things and one afternoon, while he was eating a cracker, he heard a horrible crunch. Part of the tooth had broken off.
He called the dentist in a panic. They gave him temporary filling material at his surgery, but he had to put it in himself.
“I put it on top and it squashed the tooth out to the side. It looked like a squashed victoria sponge,” he says.
Neil was stuck eating out of one side of his mouth and once dentists reopened, he had to have the tooth extracted due to it being “irreparable”.
They’re far from alone, and many more Brits have opened up on their own horrendous experiences over the last few months.
Billy Taylor, 33, of Axminster, Devon, also resorted to pliers when his toothache became “excruciating”.
The dad had tried to get into a dentist and even called 111, but says he was told he wouldn’t be seen unless he was struggling to breathe.
“The pain was excruciating,” he explained. “My face was swelling and I had a migraine on that side. I think it was an abcess.”
He eventually downed a couple of shots of whisky as a sedative, grabbed his trusty wire-twisting pliers, and yanked it out himself – with his son watching on to ensure he didn’t pass out.
“The process was bloody painful. It was hideous. But I’m into motocross – I can put up with a lot,” he said.
Meanwhile DIY dentist Paul Cutting, 71, took matters into his own hands to yank out partner Karen’s aching molar in April.
Mr Cutting, from Canvey Island, Essex, was told that his 56-year-old wife’s condition was not severe enough for an emergency referral after calls to his usuall dentist went unanswered.
Paul eventually performed the DIY extraction with the help of the couple’s housemate Janet – and a couple of alcoholic drinks.
He said: “I gave Karen a couple of rum and cokes, rubbed clove oil all over and pulled it out.”
“I was quite shocked it came out with one yank – it was like a brazil nut. Her face was swollen but it went down after a couple of hours.”
And in May This Morning host Holly Willoughby was left squirming when a guest revealed the “barbaric” way she tried to remove her tooth using pliers.
Fay Rayward attempted the desperate procedure after being left in excruciating pain and unable to get urgent dental treatment.
Her problems began when a large filling came out of her tooth leaving a “hollow shell” that went on to crack. After taking antibiotics and persevering for six days, Fay took matters into her own hands.
She explained: “It was desperate measures. I was crying and didn’t know what to do. I started with tweezers tying to loosen the tooth. I got my husband’s pliers and tried to remove it myself. I just wanted it out.”Fay, who called her home surgery “barbaric”, previously told the BBC the pain she was in was worse than childbirth.
Her efforts with the pliers were in vain though, and the following day she finally managed to be seen in an Urgent Dental Care hub, bringing immediate relief.
The British Dental Association (BDA) Chair Mick Armstrong warned against taking such drastic measures at the time.