DIY Dentistry: always a bad idea?
November 24, 2008 5:20 PM   Subscribe

Should I pull this tooth out?

My father and grandfather both lost all of their teeth by the time they were 40. At 31, I'm currently sporting nine broken teeth myself, but eight of those are just context to my question. The ninth one is the problem. The nerve is exposed, and this is causing a periodic radiant zing of agony down my jaw and neck, and into my chest. I don't care about saving the tooth, but the pain is pretty awful, and I am concerned that this is starting to take a toll on the rest of my body.

I can't afford proper dental care (no income, no savings, bad credit, no insurance of any kind, surviving on the generosity of a friend). Am I better off trying to pull this sucker myself, or leaving it to fester? Which is more dangerous/insanely stupid? Do I have professional dental care options which have not occurred to me? Or do you have any advice for dealing with this kind of pain on an ongoing basis?

I am in Columbus, Ohio, if that makes any difference. Throwaway email account at zinginghelltooth at, for for sharing tips and terrifying self-dentistry anecdotes.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
Please do not leave it to fester or attempt to remove it yourself.

Please contact your local public health department (assuming you're in the US) and ask them to direct you to a public health dental clinic that serves low income populations. They exist, and they can help.
posted by tristeza at 5:28 PM on November 24, 2008

Duh, Columbus, sorry I missed that. Contact the City of Columbus Public Health Dentistry Clinic.
posted by tristeza at 5:32 PM on November 24, 2008

Both are dangerous and both are stupid.
Do as tristeza says. Here is a link.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:32 PM on November 24, 2008

I would scrounge the couple hundred bucks it would cost to go to a dentist. Actually is probably less. I am just talking about a consult here, not actual treatment. If anyone can answer your questions the dentist would be able to.

Untreated dental needs are way worse than you probably figure. It can cause cancer. Just google it.

There are also dentists willing to do pro bono style work for people like you. Find one. Now.

I tried to google you up someone in your location that would do this, but failed. Again, call a dentist, explain what you have going on. He will best be able to direct to to programs that will serve you.

Health car professionals hate that people are in pain and sick. If anything can be done, they will bend over backwards to make it happen.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:37 PM on November 24, 2008

Dental schools also tend to be a cheaper source of treatment.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:14 PM on November 24, 2008

The OSU College of Dentistry has some outreach stuff. See the section for the "Columbus Mobile Dental Clinic" here.
posted by CKmtl at 6:19 PM on November 24, 2008

Yeah, I also came here to suggest a dental school. The one attached to my university has a clinic where anyone can go for 20 or 30 bucks. Don't freak out about being seen by students; their instructors (real, experienced, TEACHER dentists!) are hovering to make sure everything goes well.

I wouldn't ever rip something out of my body without medical advice. I really hope you can scrape together a few bucks for a cheap clinic somewhere.
posted by Sfving at 6:33 PM on November 24, 2008

Dude. I've been to the Ohio State dental clinic several times myself, and they're awesome - not only cheap, but great skills. If you need a little cash to get your tooth pulled, I'll cover you - that kind of pain is nothing you should try to bear on a daily basis. Just MeMail me if you want some help, seriously. Consider it my gift in honor of Soulbee, if you feel weird about it.
posted by HopperFan at 6:48 PM on November 24, 2008 [53 favorites]

Oh God, please please please get this taken care of by a professional. Leaving it to fester could cause an abscess, pulling it could cause serious, life-threatening damage. The above resources are good.
posted by lunasol at 7:02 PM on November 24, 2008

"The Ohio State University College of Dentistry
Postle Hall Emergency Clinic, 305 W. 12th Avenue, Columbus, OH
43210, phone: (614) 292-3571
Open for adult walk-in emergencies during these hours:

8:30 am – 1:30 pm on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday

9:30 am – 1:30 pm on Wednesday

8:30 am – 10:30 am on Friday
If it is a busy day, you may be asked to come back the next day for
The fee for an exam, single x-ray and one tooth extraction is $86.00,
paid at the time of registration. Added fees will be charged if more
treatment is needed.
Medicaid is accepted."
posted by HopperFan at 7:05 PM on November 24, 2008

More low-cost/free emergency dental care options here. (pdf)

[Offer still stands, just trying to provide multiple options!]
posted by HopperFan at 7:09 PM on November 24, 2008

I can't add anything to the help that people have offered here, except a story that my grade 7 teacher told me about a guy he knew who had a toothache and ignored it. And ignored it some more. Eventually, it became infected, and the infection got into the nerve, and traveled up the nerve to the brain. And killed him.

Get seen to by a professional. Others are providing excellent advice in that regard.
posted by Dasein at 10:29 PM on November 24, 2008

Speaking as someone who for several years tried unsuccessfully many times to self-treat a very badly ingrown toenail and then had it fixed, thanks to a lot of help from a friend, in less than an hour by a doctor, I think you should go to OSU today.
posted by fidelity at 6:57 AM on November 25, 2008

Very bad idea. Consider the fate of Deamonte Driver.
posted by electroboy at 8:07 AM on November 25, 2008

Many people are killed by bad teeth when they abscess and damage the heart. It's more common than you think.
posted by Megafly at 4:26 PM on November 25, 2008

The original poster asked me to thank you for your advice and tell you that she went to OSU today and had the tooth removed, and definitely couldn't have done it herself. She'll have more to say tomorrow, but is feeling too exhausted now.
posted by fidelity at 6:46 PM on November 25, 2008

I was wondering - and kind of worried, too, since she (the OP) never contacted me. Really glad she was able to get it taken care of.
posted by HopperFan at 7:37 PM on November 25, 2008

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