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Georgia Dentists Have Duty to Protect Patient Airway

When a dental procedure is performed in Georgia, serious injuries can often result. However, one type of injury is completely preventable — ingestion of  (either whole or pieces that have broken off) dental instruments such as drill bits, root canal files, and teeth. Since the patient is most often lying prone in the dental chair and not cognizant of what is going on around them, it is encumbent upon the dentist to protect the airway so that nothing gets dropped down the patient’s throat, which could lead to dental instruments either being entrapped in the lungs, stomache or intestines.

“I was at the dentist getting a root canal, and then next thing I know I was told I swallowed a tool,” is a comment that I have heard in the past. “I didn’t really even feel it going down. All I felt was a slight cough. When they did the xrya they realized, you swallowed it, and it is in your stomach,” is another sentiment that has been relayed to our office by dental patients who have swallowed dental instruments , sometimes without their knowledge. Often, once the dentral instrument has made its way past the throat, it continues to work its way down the intestinal tract, or worse, can wind up deep in a lung.

Dental instruments are sharp and can wind up lodged in the back of the throat, the trachea, bronchial passages, stomach and intestines. Sharp edges can cause all types of complications in the body such as coughing up blood, stomach ulcers and rectal bleeding. Once lodges in these areas of the body, the dental instruments must be removed as soon as possible to prevent further harm, especially in the case of foreign objects in the lung, which usually require surgery to remove part of the lung along with the stuck dental instrument or foreign object. If immediate sugery is not performed to remove the dental instrument (and often some of the lung if it is lodged in the lung), infection could set in and infections in the lungs are very hard to treat. The dental instruments (such as a drill bit or root canal file that has broken off during a root canal procedure are a foreign body that was in the mouth and bacteria in the mouth is some of the most virulent and aggressive types of bacteria. If it remains in the lung (or other parts of the body), and if it’s sitting there any length of time, the risk is that it will create an abscess. Once an abcess develops, it is hard to control the infection, as antibiotics, while normally very affective in treating infections, have a difficult time traveling to some parts of the body such as the lungs due to a lack of sufficient blood flow.

For over 25 years, Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling dental and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been injured or died as a result of the negligence or malpractice of others in the Atlanta, Georgia area. He is a partner in the law firm of Katz Wright & Fleming LLC and regularly handles cases in Atlanta as well as Alpharetta, Brookhaven, College Park, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, Smyrna, Peachtree City, and other cities in Georgia. He is committed to making a difference in his clients’ lives. If you or a family member have been seriously injured or died as a result of negligence and would like quality legal representation or if you would just like to consult about a potential case, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.

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