Have your patients lost their dentures?

Sept. 27, 2001
They might want to check their stomachs, according to the AGD.

Despite reports that date back to 1890, swallowing dental foreign objects is still common with X-rays often revealing dentures, toothbrushes and toothpicks lodged in patients' throats and stomachs, according to a recent report in General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed journal of the Academy of General Dentistry.

"Any foreign dental object that is swallowed and becomes lodged in the throat or stomach can cause a potentially life threatening situation," says Charles H. Perle, DMD, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing education. "Accidentally swallowing a denture may happen during sleep, due to a poor fitting appliance or even possibly during an intoxicated episode."

Denture wearers must remember that the bone underneath their denture will change, changing the shape of the mouth, but not of the denture, in turn causing a loose-fitting appliance. In addition to increasing the chance of swallowing the appliance, loose fitting denture cause loss of palate sensitivity making the patient more prone to swallowing chicken or fish bones.

Dr. Perle has also treated non-denture wearing patients that have ingested pennies, toys, pen caps, bobbie pins and sewing needles.

Additional case reports reveal:

-- Ingested toothpicks have caused liver abscesses.

-- While inducing purging, bulimics have accidentally ingested toothbrushes.

-- Accidental ingestion of partial dentures and orthodontic appliances has required surgical removal procedures.

More than 2,700 Americans choke to death each year. Protect yourself if you wear dentures:

-- Visit the dentist twice a year to make sure the appliance is in good working condition.

-- Consider a fixed bridge or implants instead of a partial denture.

-- If you have severe bone loss and still need a denture, ask about getting implants to stabilize the denture.

-- Do not wear faulty appliances overnight. There is a danger of swallowing during sleep.

-- Remove the appliance before playing sports.