Imagine having an accident so weird that researchers write about it in a medical journal. That's what happened to a 55-year-old man who showed up at an Indian hospital with a cough. As it turned out, he wasn’t sick—there was just a denture caught in his esophagus.
Researchers from Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute in Puducherry, India eventually wrote up his case in the journal BMJ Case Reports. The man went about his business for a full week before finally showing up to the emergency room. (Spoiler: He’s now fine.)
Upon questioning him and reviewing body scans, the researchers realized that he had inadvertently swallowed a piece of his denture. One night while he was asleep, the man had a seizure, and when he awoke, he found a piece of his denture, with its false tooth, lying on the floor. He couldn’t find the rest of it and assumed it was just lost somewhere in the house. Five days later, he began having difficulty swallowing and developed a cough.
That larger piece on the left is what ended up in his esophogus. Image Credit:Boopathy et al., BMJ Case Reports (2015)
On the eighth day after his seizure, he went to a gastroenterologist, who X-rayed his chest. There was the missing denture, metal clasp and all. After a complicated procedure with an endoscope (a tube with a camera), the medical staff eventually removed the offending piece of plastic and metal. As of his last follow-up, the patient was doing well, the study says, so his story has a happy ending.
Apparently, swallowing your dentures isn’t that rare. It accounts for about 11.5 percent of cases where there’s a foreign body in the esophagus or trachea, according to the study. Typically, dentures get swallowed when people are drunk, asleep, or if the dentures don’t fit well, during eating and drinking. The lesson here? People who have seizures should think twice about wearing removable dentures. Also, if you can’t find your dentures, perhaps you need to look inward.