Here's a story to haunt your nightmares. A newly released medical report aptly titled "Orthodontic braces come back to bite," details the case of a woman who swallowed a dental wire from her braces at least 10 years ago — and the wire stayed in her digestive tract until it finally punctured her small intestine, sending her to the ER for emergency surgery.
The case study was published Tuesday in the journal BMJ Case Reports. But before we get into exactly what happened, allow us to alleviate your fears — there's a very, very small chance the same thing could happen to other people who had braces.
"The chances of swallowing a wire from your braces is very low," Talia Shepherd, MD, one of the treating physicians, told CNN. "There might be a higher chance if you're sedated and undergo a dental procedure. But this is a very unusual case." So don't let this woman's story worry you.
What doctors find most strange about this case is that the woman doesn't remember swallowing a wire, which is probably why it stayed inside her body for years. Because she didn't know she swallowed it, the cause of her pain was initially unknown. She went to the emergency room at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Australia complaining of severe pain in her abdomen. At first, doctors believed it was related to her gallbladder and released the woman once the pain went away.
She came back two days later, when the pain got even worse. After taking a scan of her abdomen, the doctors realized that something had punctured her small intestine several times and caused it to twist around itself in a condition known as volvulus.
They rushed her into surgery to remove the object, which turned out to be a 7-centimeter piece of dental wire, and to repair the damage it had done.
"I think it was probably just sitting there in her stomach the whole time, and then when the small bowel was punctured, that's when the pain started," Shepard told CNN.
Because it bears repeating, remember that this is a very rare case and don't let thoughts of every orthodontist visit keep you up at night.
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