You’ve probably seen funny internet memes and even authentic vintage photos of teeth being pulled with pliers. While it’s true that dentists use specialized pliers to remove teeth, what we’re talking about here is the do-it-yourself job people have been known to do with lineman pliers and the like. But does it really happen? And what are the consequences?

It’s true that a century ago, many people pulled teeth themselves at home with pliers being the best tool to get the job done. Dentists were few and far between compared with today, and it was seen by many people as an unnecessary cost to travel to visit a professional for something so easy to achieve at home. People back then would drink copious amounts of alcohol, or even take laudanum, and then have someone nearby remove the tooth using pliers. It was painful and, many times, it went wrong.

In reality, removing a tooth with pliers is no easy task (with the exception of deciduous baby teeth). Teeth are held in the jaw bone by fibrous ligaments; it’s akin to the tooth being glued into the bone.  Dentists actually work hard and intricately to loosen the ligaments and expose the jaw bone to ensure the tooth is extracted cleanly and completely. They also offer pain relief for the job!

Yet many people still attempt to extract their own teeth! Toothache can be excruciating, and some just don’t have the patience or tenacity to wait for a professional to do it for them. However, if you fail to remove the entire tooth, if you have an abscess, or if you experience a dry socket, you will be in big trouble and need a dentist as soon as possible. You’ll also likely need antibiotics at the time of extraction. It’s not worth the bother of doing it yourself!

Is it ever acceptable to pick up a set of lineman pliers and pull your own teeth? According to the blog of a family dentist in Ohio, the only time you should ever even consider removing your own tooth is when it’s a baby tooth ready to fall out at the right time and already very loose.

In cases of severe gum disease where the socket, bone, and tooth are severely decayed and the tooth is extremely loose, the tooth may come out very easily. But even loose teeth are delicate and may come out incompletely. Pliers can also transmit bacteria to the mouth, which causes infection.

In short, keep your lineman pliers for odd jobs around the home or office – and let your dentist use his or her own specialty pliers for removing teeth!