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With no dentist in town, Yukon man desperately tries a DIY fix — using pliers

Dawson City, Yukon, resident Mike Najman was in a lot of pain when his tooth broke. And with no resident dentist in town, he decided to try to deal with it himself, using a pair of pliers. (Mike Najman - image credit)
Dawson City, Yukon, resident Mike Najman was in a lot of pain when his tooth broke. And with no resident dentist in town, he decided to try to deal with it himself, using a pair of pliers. (Mike Najman - image credit)

There are few things to compare with the pain of a toothache.

And that's why one Dawson City, Yukon, man recently decided to take matters into his own hands when he found himself in terrible pain with a dental emergency — and no resident dentist in his remote town.

"My filling fell out and my tooth broke in half," Mike Najman explained.

The pain was terrible, and he realized the broken tooth had to come out.

But the nearest dentist was a six-hour drive away, in Whitehorse. That's a long and expensive trip, especially in pain, so Najman decided he'd instead be his own dentist and use something that had worked for him before: a set of pliers.

He told CBC News he pulled one of his teeth 12 years ago and that it was an easy one to pull. He figured if he could do it once, he could do it again.

Najman realized he didn't have the right sort of pliers though, so he took to social media to ask if anyone in town had a different set he could use.

"It was so painful," said Najman. "I decided that if I could get the right pliers, I could do it by myself."

The pliers Dawson City resident Mike Najman used as he attempted to extract his broken tooth.
The pliers Dawson City resident Mike Najman used as he attempted to extract his broken tooth.

Najman's dentistry tools. (Mike Najman)

He was wrong.

Despite his best efforts with the new pliers, he couldn't get the tooth out. He decided it was time to drive to Whitehorse to seek professional help.

That's when Najman hit another challenge — it was a Friday night, and he knew he'd have to wait until Monday to see a dentist even for an emergency procedure.

"On Sunday morning, I was driving to Whitehorse," he said. "Monday morning, I was driving around [to] offices in hopes that somebody would take me the same day. And they did."

Najman said the third dental office he went to got him in and extracted the rest of his troublesome tooth.

Dental office in Dawson, but no dentist

This ordeal was particularly frustrating for Najman as he knows that this procedure might have been handled locally at the Dawson City hospital.

"Five or six years ago," Najman explained, "I used to work for Bishop plumbing company and we actually set up the dentist office in the hospital.

"There is a whole dentist office and I never heard about that office being used."

In an email, a spokesperson for the Yukon Hospital Corporation confirmed there is a "specially designed space" for dental care at the Dawson hospital, and that it's been used "from time to time" when the Health department brings in a visiting dentist.

Eight of the roles advertised are at Dawson City Hospital which - according to Yukon Hospital Corporation's latest annual report - has 31 staff in total.
Eight of the roles advertised are at Dawson City Hospital which - according to Yukon Hospital Corporation's latest annual report - has 31 staff in total.

The hospital in Dawson City. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

Najman told CBC News that he thinks if there is a space for a dentist, there should be a dentist utilizing the space.

He said a single trip to Whitehorse to see a dentist costs him around a thousand dollars. If there were a dentist in town, Najman figures his own out-of-pocket cost would be cut in half.

Dawson resident Helmut Schoener, a retired dentist, feels the same as Najman.

Although retired, Schoener said he would perform emergency dental work on residents in need, and that he approached the Yukon government about doing that out of the local hospital.

He said the government declined his offer.

"I really feel sorry for the guy," Scheoner said of Najman's ordeal.

"There are no services basically in outlying communities, and they have to pay out of their own pocket nowadays to go and travel to Whitehorse. It wouldn't have to be that way," he said.

CBC News asked the department of Health and Social Services for an interview about dental services in Dawson, but nobody was immediately available.