What to do if you've swallowed your dental crown. -

What happens if you do? | Ways to retrieve the crown. | How long will it take for it to pass?

Consider this scenario. While you're eating dinner you have a dental crown come off. But before you realize it has, you've gone ahead and swallowed it with your mouthful of food.

If this has happened to you, you really only have 3 choices.

  1. Make yourself throw up and look for the crown in what comes up.
  2. Start looking for your crown in your bowel movements.
  3. Make no attempt to retrieve it. Arrange for your dentist to make you a new one.

Related page - What to do if your dental crown comes off. (And you've retrieved it before swallowing it.)


The options you have -

1) Regurgitate the contents of your stomach and look for the crown.

As disagreeable as having to throw up may seem, doing so has a big advantage. If it works you'll have your crown back immediately.

That can provide a lot of peace of mind because dental crowns aren't cheap. Having yours in hand can remove the worry about having to go through the time and expense of having it replaced.

Tips and pointers.
  • It's best to throw up into a container, like a plastic dishpan. Or better yet, a colander over a dishpan combination. Vomiting straight into a sink makes a poor choice. The crown might escape down the drain.
  • After washing off the crown thoroughly, you can disinfect it by soaking it in a 1:10 dilution of household bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) and water for 10 minutes. (OSHA)
  • After that, it's a good idea to periodically wear the crown (as we outline here), until that point in time when your dentist can permanently recement it (information about recementation costs).

Section references - OSHA.gov

 

2) Looking for your swallowed crown in your stools.

When compared to the first method, this one may seem even more objectionable. But, once again, just keep in mind that your efforts can save you the cost of a new one (many hundreds of dollars).

How long will it take the crown to pass?

Play it safe and start looking for your crown in your very next bowel movement. But here are some statistics that apply:

  • On average, it probably won't show up for 12 to 14 hours. (But remember, that's on average. You might want to start looking before that.)
  • The last of that same meal might not finish passing until 36 to 48 hours have elapsed.
  • If at that point you still haven't found it, there's no reason not to keep looking for a few extra days.
  • Kharbanda reports a case involving a crown that took 5 days. Khouri reports a case involving a dental bridge that took 2 days.

Section references - Lehrer, Kharbanda, Khouri

Tips and pointers.
  • As silly as this seems, once you know you've swallowed your crown you might eat some corn. It won't necessarily pass through at the exact same rate as your crown. But it can act as a marker of sorts.
  • Depending on the timing of events and the position of the tooth involved, your dentist may decide to make you a temporary crown to wear while you wait. This can restore your appearance, your tooth's function and keep any teeth from shifting.
  • Once your crown has passed and has been found it should be cleaned.

    After washing off the crown thoroughly, it can be disinfected by soaking it in a 1:10 dilution of household bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) and water for 10 minutes. (OSHA - see link above.)

    Sterilization, a higher level of decontamination, can be accomplished by your dentist's office.


3) Making no attempt to retrieve the swallowed crown.

Choosing to do nothing clearly has some drawbacks.

a) Cost.

The most obvious one is that you'll have to go to the time and expense of having a new crown made.

b) It's good to know where the swallowed crown is.

It's both comforting and necessary to know that the crown has exited your body.

  • If the crown disappeared down your throat uneventfully, the odds favor that you did just swallow it (it entered into your stomach). If so, in most cases it will just uneventfully pass on through your digestive system.
  • In some cases, it's possible that the crown could have become lodged in your digestive tract. Or, and especially in the case that you experienced a lot of coughing when the crown disappeared, it might have entered into the airway that leads to your lungs.

    These are less likely events but you should report what happened to your dentist so they can evaluate your situation and make the appropriate diagnostic or treatment recommendation. (Khouri suggests that 10 to 20% of cases require non-operative intervention and, at most, 1% of cases require surgery.)

    X-ray examination is used to definitively identify the location of a crown lost internally. In the case that the object has been aspirated (become lodged in your lungs or associated air passages) it will need to be removed to avoid the formation of an abscess. Swallowed objects can be monitored via x-rays until they have exited.


Page reference sources - Diamond, Khouri

 
 
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Comments

What to do if I swallowed my crown

Good helpful article. Just for reference,
I swallowed my gold crown on a Sunday
afternoon and pooped it out Thursday
morning - about 4 days. Maybe it will
help the next person.
Thanks.

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