\Most of the human population is still in the antiquity of home remedies for many health conditions, including tooth pain, which can be severely disturbing. Medicating for toothache at home can be acceptable to some extent, but there are people who are just going beyond this and self-treating themselves in order to avoid hefty dental fees. Recently, the story of Karen Hearna came to light that will leave you dumbstruck. In an interview with The Sun, Karen Hearn shared her agony of overcoming a chronic toothache for which she tried many do-it-yourself solutions like clove oil, ice, and other over-the-counter products, but nothing worked. With no choice left, she had to schedule an appointment with a dentist, which left her with more misery than pain. She was told that she was suffering from a tooth abscess that required either a root canal treatment followed by a crown, with an estimated cost of $1,800 (approximately Rs 1.48 lakh), or a more economical tooth extraction or removal option for $185 (around Rs 15,000).
Reluctant to spend such a huge sum, Karen made a drastic decision to alleviate her pain by herself. She and her husband, Grant,Grant applied numbing gel instead of local anesthesia to Karen’s gums, and the couple used a vacuum cleaner as a dental suction device and a barber’s tool as extraction forceps for the procedure. Prior to usage, the barber's tool was cleaned with cola and sterilized with rubbing alcohol. Finally, Grant applied a considerable amount of force to the teeth with the tool, and he successfully extracted Karen’s painful tooth.
Isn't it bizarre? The whole story is just that she went public about the whole approach, but there are many such incidents and stories untold and unknown. Not all dental pains end up in dental extraction; there are many procedures to save a tooth and prevent its extraction.
The whole extraction procedure, if indicated is done under very sterile protocols, starting with thorough hand washing, disinfecting the operating area, using sterile instruments, and post-op instructions. This entire procedure should be done only by a professional dental surgeon under local anesthesia. There can be various risks depending on the patient's systemic condition, ranging from profuse bleeding to paresthesia in a few cases, which should be carefully managed under the vigilance of a surgeon. So, taking this procedure into one's own hands and making it a DIY experiment would pose a greater risk to the patient and could be life-threatening. The lack of infection control measures will lead to severe infections that can sometimes spread to the heart through circulation from the infected extraction site.
Though dental procedures are costly affairs for certain sections of the population, visiting a dentist is inevitable in some painful situations, and this would help the patient prevent further expense from the treatment. Instead of any self-treatment that would further increase the risk and cost for the patients, there are community health centers and medical insurance programs available to cover the cost of treatment. Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP are a few reduced-cost health insurance programs that help low-income and elderly patients with their dental needs in the USA. Though these are not available in countries like India, many other options like EHS (employe health schemes), BPL cards (below the poverty line), and dental EMIs (Bajaj Finserv partner clinic or hospital, Tata AIG insurance, etc.) are available. Moreover, these days, many health insurance schemes include dental insurance as a part of their plans. There is a lack of awareness of these services among the public, which might be one of the reasons patients attempt such self-treatment.
Dr. Sathvik Mavinkurve S., Assistant Professor, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, RRDCH, Bangalore, shares his views on the present scenario.
Though the charges for the same kind of treatment in India are almost 4 to 5 times less, Still, here in India, the patients bargain for treatments like in marketplaces for groceries and other household stuff. The awareness and necessity to spend money without being so stringent is the most needed step up in the field of dentistry. The patients should be educated about the DIY risks, which can end up costing more than the regular charges if it gets complicated from DIY.
Dr. Keerthana Rao, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, assistant professor, SVDC, Tamil Nadu, mentions that " The virtual world has advanced so much that people have access to view most of the procedures done by a dentist through various platforms. Just like a coin has two sides, the flip side of this is that they don't understand the complications that might arise from these DIY extraction methods. Though it may appear easy, as shown on the websites, there is always an untoward risk associated with it without complete knowledge.
There can be severe bleeding, infection, oral communication, trauma, and a lot more to name. It may progress so much as to become sepsis and end up taking a person's life.
In the experts opinion, never ever try to pull out your teeth by yourself; there is a strict protocol to be followed both pre- and post-operation. Doing so is just going to harm you and cost you more than you expect!
(Rehash/ Dr. Meghana Pasala)