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?

To play it safe, start looking for your crown in your very next bowel movement. But generally, here are some statistics that apply:

  • The restoration probably won't show up for at least 12 to 14 hours.

    (However, it doesn't hurt to start looking before that. If nothing else, doing so can help you in establishing a routine that will help to ensure that you don't overlook or inadvertently lose the crown when searching.)

  • The remainder of the meal that you were eating when the event occurred may not finish passing for 36 to 48 hours.
  • If by that point you still haven't found your crown, there's no reason not to keep searching your stools for a few extra days.
  • Kharbanda reports a case involving a crown that took 5 days to pass. 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. Food won't necessarily pass through your system at the exact same rate as your restoration. But it can act as a marker of sorts.
  • The safest step that can be taken is to make you a temporary crown to wear while waiting for your permanent one to reappear. This will restore your tooth's function and its appearance.

    Also, and very importantly, wearing a temporary will prevent your teeth from shifting. (Crowned teeth, and their neighbors, will tend to shift during times when a crown is not present. Sometimes to the extent that the retrieved crown can't be recemented.)

  • 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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 Page references sources: 

Diamond R. Dental First Aid for Families.

Kharbanda OP, et al. Accidental swallowing of a gold cast crown during orthodontic tooth separation.

Khouri AT, et al. Accidental swallowing of a four unit anterior bridge: A case report.

Lehrer J. Bowel transit time.

OSHA.gov General Decontamination.

All reference sources for topic Dental Crowns.

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.

time for passing

I hate to be vulgar, but I am very regular, going 1-2x every day. I swallowed my crown wednesday night. I went on thursday with no luck and went friday morning with no luck. Friday morning I was already seeing the remnants of Thursday's dinner. Is it possible that I have passed thursday's dinner but not yet the crown swallowed Wednesday? Is it more likely that I somehow missed it? Could it be lodged somewhere in my intestine?

LK

This section of this page gives some additional examples and an idea of what to expect. By our count, you're 1.5 days into a situation that may take several.

Also as our text mentions, food only provides a crude measurement about what's going on. Meals and swallowed crowns don't always pass at the same rate. So at this point, a crown that's known to have been swallowed and is passing wouldn't be terribly overdue and there's no reason not to keep looking.

Good luck. Just keep in mind how much you're "earning" per hour if you do find it and therefore don't have to have a new crown made.

question

Thank you!

Still inside of me!

I posted a couple of weeks ago. It has now been TWENTY DAYS since I swallowed the crown. I have had 2 xrays and they have confimed it is stuck near the top of my colon. This is despite the fact that I am very regular (going every single day). So first question: should they be doing a procedure to remove it? Second, if they do not, can it cause long term issues? Finally, if they do remove it or if I am able to pass it as this stage, will it still be a viable option to re-use (it is gold)?

LK

It's certainly disappointing to hear that your crown didn't just pass uneventfully.

Here's an article that contains a flow chart showing the different solutions that may be needed with swallowed dental objects.

As far as what to do and when, you'll simply need to defer to the judgment of the doctors familiar with your case. Only they can decide.

As for the crown itself, if it simply came off your tooth and was swallowed, there would be every expectation that it would remain undamaged from this episode and could be used again.

However, if the tooth shifts position because it doesn't have a crown on it, that event might make the crown unusable. (That's why this page mentions having a temporary crown placed.)

Or if the crown came off related to some type of tooth-to-crown issue (complications with tooth decay, the tooth broke, etc...) even though the crown is undamaged, it may not be suitable for use with your tooth any more. (After examining your tooth, your dentist should have a pretty fair idea of what transpired.)

Good luck. Hopefully this will be over for you soon and remedied easily

* Comments marked with an asterisk, along with their associated replies, have either been edited for brevity/clarity, or have been moved to a page that's better aligned with their subject matter, or both. If relocated, the comment and its replies retain their original datestamps, which may affect the chronology of the page's comments section.


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