It was a harrowing case of teeth cleaning gone awry for one British teen who feared she might die after swallowing her toothbrush.
According to The Sun, 19-year-old Georgie Smith, of Brighton, East Sussex, felt the tooth brush slipping down her throat but couldn't do much to stop it. Smith, a student at Guildford University, has no gag reflex.
(Check out these X-ray images of an Atlanta woman who swallowed a butter knife during an ill-advised demonstration of the same trait.)
“I thought I was going to choke to death and was stunned when I [realized] it wasn’t stuck in my throat and I could breathe," Smith told the Sun. Doctors allegedly told the teen that there was nothing they could do, and she should just wait for "nature to take care of things."
“Nobody knows where it is as X-rays don’t show plastic. It could be dissolving in my intestines or may already have passed through," she said.
Smith's "brush with death" is not as uncommon as one might think.
An operation to remove a toothbrush from a 15-year old New Zealand girl's stomach went off without a hitch, despite the surgeon's fears she might suffer internal injuries during the extraction.
Doctor Dinesh Lal, a gastroenterologist, was astonished when the patient told him she had pushed the toothbrush down her throat accidentally, when she tripped while brushing, according to the New Zealand Herald. The operation, which required six specialists, was written up in a 2010 issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal.
The fact that plastic cannot always be spotted on an X-ray was also problematic for a young woman in Jerusalem, who spent days trying to persuade doctors at the Carmel Medical Center in Haifa to take her complaint seriously.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the 25-year-old woman swallowed the brush, bristles and all, while leaning over her bathroom sink. But emergency doctors failed to find the brush, and doubted her story.
“I begged them to do more tests,” she said. “Apparently they thought I was dreaming or not normal, and they sent me home.”
Eventually, a CT scan was ordered, and the brush was extracted.
Despite its apparent risks, dental hygiene is no laughing matter. At an American Heart Association research meeting this spring, researchers said that dental care not only prevents cavities and gum disease, but can also reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.