The expression, “it’s like pulling teeth,” is said to be cited as early as the 17th century. The idiom refers to something that is difficult and painful. For example, getting my kids to do their chores is “like pulling teeth.” Sigh. That’s very true. Fortunately, the pain associated with the actual procedure is no longer true. This expression relates to the early days of tooth removal. According to Wikipedia, until the early 20th century in Europe, dental extractions were often made by travelling dentists in town fairs.
One such infamous dentist was a charlatan known as Painless Parker. According to the Smithsonian, after he barely graduated dental school Painless Parker needed patients. Partnering with a former employee from PT Barnum’s circus they created a travelling dentist circus. For his performance, he would pretend to extract a tooth and then produce one from a previous procedure. This would trick the audience into thinking it was painless. He would then ask for fifty cents to those who needed a tooth pulled.
When the willing volunteer/victim got into the chair he tapped his foot for the band to play louder at the point of extraction to drown out the patient’s cries. The audience would be none the wiser. Of course, he used no pain medication unless the victim was lucky enough to get whiskey or watered-down cocaine. Thankfully advancements in ethics, anesthesia and pain management make this kind of story seem unbelievable as it would never happen today. In fact, even later in life Painless Parker fled the country to escape the many lawsuits against him.
Modern Day Tooth Extraction
Today, the profession of dentistry is regulated and maintained by a high code of standards and ethics and tooth extraction is considered by some to be as easy as getting a filling. In fact, it’s so easy that people often consider removing a tooth and replacing it instead of repairing a decayed or diseased tooth. This isn’t recommended, as it still affects the surrounding teeth and can alter your bite. Tooth removal is a last resort. If you got a paper cut you would get a band-aid or some antibiotic ointment and try to heal it. You wouldn’t chop off your finger!
When is tooth removal necessary?
If trauma, decay or infection occur and can’t be fixed by alternative procedures such as fillings, root canals, or antibiotics, or if a person has a compromised immune system then tooth extraction might be necessary.
Sometimes in orthodontics, teeth are often removed to prevent overcrowding.
What happens after tooth removal?
After your tooth is extracted you will have a space. If it’s not for orthodontic purposes and the space will not be corrected, you can discuss with your dentist which form of tooth replacement is right for you, whether it’s a crown and dental implant, or a dental bridge in the case of several teeth.
Did you know?
In the past tooth extraction was commonly done to prevent wide spread infection. According to Wikipedia, historically, dental extractions were used to treat a variety of illnesses. Before antibiotics, chronic tooth infections were often linked to a variety of health problems, and removing a diseased tooth was considered the only option for treatment. Luckily today we have restorative procedures that can save a tooth before it gets to this stage such as fillings and root canals.
Guinness Book of Records?
Fun Wikipedia Fact: in France back in 1880, a travelling dentist claimed to have extracted 475 teeth in one hour!