How one man’s attempt to remove popcorn stuck in his teeth landed him in surgery

Recently a firefighter from the southern England town of Coverack nearly died due to the struggle to remove a piece of popcorn stuck between his teeth.

Myupchar January 08, 2020 18:15:00 IST
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How one man’s attempt to remove popcorn stuck in his teeth landed him in surgery

Around 60% of the global population suffers from dental fear, medically called dentophobia. The sound of the drill, the smell of the chemicals and the fear of pain keep people far, far away from the dental clinics.

Due to this dentophobia, people tend to avoid dental visits even when they are in absolute need, like in case of severe dental pain, bleeding gums or even tooth sensitivity.

How one mans attempt to remove popcorn stuck in his teeth landed him in surgery

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

People often search for solutions that could help them get away with the situation without having to pay a visit to the dentist. For instance, they’ll use a piece of clove to help with a toothache or a safety pin to remove any food substance stuck deep within their gums. 

Little do they know that these practices can create some life-threatening situations for them.

Recently a firefighter from the southern England town of Coverack nearly died due to the struggle to remove a piece of popcorn stuck between his teeth.

The deadly popcorn

Martin, a 41-year-old firefighter, suffered from a deadly disease called bacterial endocarditis which was caused due to continuous prodding and poking at a piece of popcorn that got stuck deep between the molars on the left side of his mouth.

He used every possible thing he could find laying around like toothpicks, a pen cap, a piece of wire and even a nail, to get the piece out of his teeth.

With every bizarre effort, he unintentionally pushed the piece of popcorn deep within the gums.

Within a week he developed flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, body ache and runny nose) along with a blister on his toe and a heart murmur.

A series of blood tests and X-rays showed that Martin was suffering from bacterial endocarditis. Bacterial endocarditis is an infection caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream and damage the lining, valves and muscles of the heart. It needs immediate treatment or else can be fatal.

Within a few days of the diagnosis, his condition worsened and his leg started paining which turned out to be an infected clot blocking his femoral artery. He had to undergo a five-hour surgery to remove the clot.

But the infection had further taken over the aortic and mitral valves of his heart. These valves make sure the blood flows in only one direction through the heart. He had to go in for a seven-hour long open-heart surgery to repair the defects.

The root of infections

Many deadly diseases arise from a neglected minor tooth infection. From minor abscess to bacterial endocarditis, tooth infections can become a source of numerous life-threatening diseases.

Cases have been reported where an untreated infection in the upper tooth led to a brain abscess. Though rare, the cases depicted that due to perforation in the sphenoid bone (the bone that connects the upper jaw to the base of the brain), the infection travelled from the upper right second molar to the right side of the temporal lobe of the brain.

There have also been cases where a lower tooth infection has lead to Ludwig’s angina. Ludwig’s angina is a severe form of cellulitis (a type of bacterial infection) which spreads rapidly and affects the floor of the mouth, extending to the throat. It causes swelling of the lower jaw and the neck, thus obstructing the airway completely.

From the Dentists’ desk

Regular dental checkups are important for every individual. You must pay a visit to the dentist at least twice a year.

The safest way of removing a food particle or any object stuck between your teeth is by using floss. Floss is a wax-coated thread which neither harms the tooth nor the gums.

Neglecting the signs of a disease like bleeding gums, toothache or sensitivity to hot and cold, can cause irreparable damage to your overall health.

For more on this topic, please read our article on Sensitive Teeth.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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