Medical history is full of strange, unexpected cases. Since these cases are rare, when they do occur, it can be surprising.
Take cases that involve swallowing dentures. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, the risks to the patient can be high.
If you are missing teeth or need to replace one or more of your teeth, the small risk that you could swallow a denture, if it becomes loose, might just be one more reason to consider getting dental implants instead of dentures.
Examples of Swallowed Dentures
Adults are much less likely to swallow foreign objects than children, according to a 2012 review published by Deutsches Ärzteblatt, but it does happen. On the list of items that an adult might swallow accidentally, dentures were third, accounting for up to 18 percent of cases. Swallowed dentures are a rare enough occurrence that they tend to get some attention from the medical community when a patient does swallow them.
For example, in 2009, the Lancet published a brief case study of a woman in her 50s with a history of schizophrenia and depression. The woman swallowed her dentures while eating breakfast one day. Her medical team used imaging to monitor the progression of the dentures through her digestive tract, until they passed through her system completely.
Another incident of swallowed dentures occurred in a very elderly man. The man was a resident at an assisted living home and the staff at the home didn’t realize he had swallowed his partial dentures. An X-ray of the side and front of his throat showed the dentures lodged in the esophagus.
While some people are able to pass their dentures without incident, in some cases, the results are much more tragic. A man in England died from internal bleeding several years after he swallowed his dentures. The man’s medical team weren’t aware that he had swallowed the dentures back in 2010. Over the years, he lost a significant amount of weight and wasn’t able to eat. In 2013, he began coughing up blood and was admitted to the hospital, where he died in surgery.
When a person swallows his or her dentures, the teeth typically travel through the digestive system and leave the body within 10 days, as they did in the case of woman. But, there is a risk that the dentures can cause significant damage to the insides of the body, as they did in the case of the English man.
For example, the dentures can block the bowel or tear a hole in it. In the case of the English man who died after swallowing his dentures, the teeth cut a major artery, leading to bleeding.
A 2004 study from the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine highlighted a 46-year-old man who had swallowed a denture. He had lost the ability to speak, had a fever, and began to cough up blood. While doctors weren’t able to see the dentures on X-ray, they eventually found them through esophagoscopy, or by running a small camera down the esophagus.
Reducing Swallowing Risk
One of the best ways to reduce the small risk of swallowing dentures is to opt for implants instead. Implants are designed to look and feel like natural teeth. Unlike dentures, you aren’t able to take them out of the mouth. Typically, an implant involves placing a titanium post in the area where the tooth is missing. The bone bonds to the post, creating a strong basis for the teeth and preventing the jawbone from deteriorating.
If implants are out of reach for a patient, due to cost or other concerns, there are a few ways to reduce the small risk of swallowing dentures. For example, patients shouldn’t wear dentures at night or when they are asleep.
Other Reasons to Consider Implants
Swallowing risk aside, there are a number of other reasons why implants are often preferable to dentures. Since they are secured in the gum and bone, implants are very strong and are able to function as regular teeth. The positioning of the implants means that they won’t slide or move in the mouth, reducing the risk of embarrassment when a patient smiles or the risk of having the dentures slip out when a patient is eating.
Implants are more expensive than dentures, though. If you need replacement teeth but are concerned about the cost differences between implants and dentures, you can discuss financing options with your dentist. To learn more about financing and the benefits of implants, contact the Miami implant dentistry practice of Dr. John Gallardo today at (305) 447-1447 today.