The Case for Implants: Swallowed Dentures

Posted by Dr. John Paul Gallardo, DDS, PA
Although swallowed dentures are uncommon, the consequences can be mortal if you don't seek medical help as soon as possible. 
Accidentally swallowing dentures can be a serious hazard if not treated properly.

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 be one more reason to consider getting the best dental implants in Miami instead of dentures.

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.

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.

Awareness of hazards by denture-wearers can save their lives. Swalled dentures can be lethal.
Acrylic dentures pose a risk of being accidentally swallowed if they become loose

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 the elderly patient 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 wasn’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.

What Happens in Those Cases

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 the 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, 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 chest X-ray, they eventually found them through esophagoscopy or by running a small camera down the esophagus.

What Happens If You Swallow a Tooth?

Baby teeth are naturally loose, and it’s not uncommon for children to accidentally swallow them. If a baby or child swallows a loose tooth, there is usually no cause for concern as the tooth will pass through their digestive system without any problems.

However, if an adult swallows a loose dental crown or porcelain tooth, the situation can be more serious due to the size of the objects. In these cases, it is important to seek medical attention right away as there is a risk that they could become lodged in the throat or stomach and cause damage.

Symptoms of Accidental Denture Swallowing

 If a person has swallowed their dentures, they may have admission symptoms such as dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), chest pain, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. If the absent dentures become lodged in the throat or stomach, additional secondary symptoms may include hematemesis (vomiting of blood), melena (black stools due to bleeding), anemia, weight loss, and fatigue. In cases where the dentures cannot be seen on standard radiographs or other imaging techniques due to their size, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

What Happens If You Swallow a False Tooth?

Swallowing a false tooth is considered a foreign body ingestion and can be a medical emergency. Artificial teeth, such as removable dentures or crowns, have the potential to cause damage to the digestive tract due to the size of the object and its sharp edges. If swallowed, these teeth can lodge in the esophagus or stomach, causing an obstruction. In serious cases, this obstruction may require surgery to remove it. As such, if you or someone you know has swallowed an artificial tooth, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

Can Swallowed Dentures Cause Health Issues and the Need for Dental Implants?

Swallowing dentures while eating with partial dentures can lead to serious health issues. To avoid this risk, many people opt for dental implants. Dental implants provide a secure and durable foundation for replacement teeth, allowing individuals to eat with confidence and without fear of swallowing their dentures.

Reducing Swallowing Risk

Dental implants are secure to the bone, so swallow them in very uncommon 
The best way to avoid dentures swallowed is to opt for dental implants

One of the best ways to reduce the small risk of swallowing dentures is to opt for the best dental implants in Miami, FL. 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.

What to Do If I Have a Loose Implant?

If you have a loose implant, it is crucial to seek medical attention right away. An implant after the bone has fused to the titanium post is very strong and unlikely to come loose. However, if a primary tooth has been replaced with an implant and it feels loose, then you may need to visit a dentist as soon as possible. During your appointment, the dentist will assess the condition of your implant and determine which treatment options are best for you. Depending on the situation, they will suggest tightening or replacing the implant to ensure that it remains secure and comfortable.

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 the best prices for dental implants in Miami and their benefits, contact the Miami implant dentistry practice of Dr. John Gallardo today at (305) 447-1447 today.