Desperate father rips out aching tooth with pliers

  • 12/06/2018

A Bay of Plenty man was in terrible dental pain but couldn't afford treatment so he did the unthinkable.

"I grabbed a pair of pliers, put them in my mouth, and ripped the top off one of my wisdom teeth. I used a knife to scoop out all the rotten stuff," single dad Charles Llewell told The Project.

This was the only solution he saw feasible after four years of excruciating pain.

Once dental procedure would've ended his anguish, but Charles didn't have the $4000 needed.

He approached Work and Income for dental assistance three times, but he was declined every time. They offered to pay for X-rays, but that was only a drop in the bucket.

"My poor son was getting it because I was in so much pain and it was wearing me down. I couldn't sleep, I was on even more drugs to help cope with all the infection," Mr Llewell said.

Finally, he couldn't bear it any longer.

"I desperately needed help so I grabbed my drillbit."

But despite his DIY efforts, the pain didn't stop.

Then Charles spotted an online ad for a charity called Revive A Smile.

Revive A Smile co-founder Assil Russell is the dentist who worked on Charles, and she said his situation isn't as uncommon as many people would think.

"It's pretty bad. We've travelled around New Zealand and seen first-hand many stories similar to Charles where people are struggling and having a go with DIY dentistry themselves."

Ms Russell is calling for the Government to subsidise dentistry for in-need communities.

"We're coming up to 10,000 people who have been treated through our programme. Our job is definitely not done yet. That's why we're petitioning to get it subsidised for people who are homeless, low- to mid-income, and people who are living paycheck to paycheck."

She says there are a few opportunities for free dental services people can employ instead of turning to DIY methods.

"People can apply through the Revive A Smile charity clinics. There's also the New Zealand Dental Association and Southern Cross Health Trusts run free dental days each year and there is one coming up.

"Dentists are giving back to the community and it's about time the Government steps up and helps subsidise dentistry to help people in need."

Ms Russell says helping each other out is the Kiwi way of doing things.

"We all love to help each other. I love making people smile and helping them get out of pain and improve their life and their relationship with their children."

Revive A Smile is run by a team of volunteer health professionals from all around the country.