Precautions for accidental ingestion of a foreign body


This case serves to remind oral health care providers of the importance of locating a foreign body presumed to be ingested during a dental procedure.

Figure 1: Radiograph indicates location of the 20 mm stainless steel dental post (arrows).

A 58-year-old male was undergoing treatment for a dental crown when he accidentally ingested a 20 mm stainless steel post intended to support the prosthesis. The patient did not display any signs of distress and was referred to a hospital emergency department to determine the location of the object. Imaging revealed the post, described as a “needle-like object,” overlying the mid-abdomen (Fig. 1). The patient was instructed to monitor for spontaneous passage of the object. The patient did not develop any complications, such as hemorrhage, infection, intestinal obstruction and/or perforation, and was unaware if the object had passed spontaneously. However, subsequent imaging of the abdomen revealed the object was no longer present.

If a foreign body is lost in the oral cavity during a dental procedure, it is presumed to be ingested or aspirated. Accidental ingestion occurs more commonly than aspiration and often does not produce any clinical signs or symptoms.1 Immediate referral to a medical facility for imaging is necessary in order to attempt to locate the foreign body. Most ingested foreign bodies pass through the gastrointestinal system without complications.1


Dr. Eric T. Stoopler
Associate professor of oral medicine

Dr. Catherine Kuo
Clinical associate

University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



  1. Obinata K, Satoh T, Towfik AM, Nakamura M. An investigation of accidental ingestion during dental procedures. J Oral Sci. 2011;53(4):495-500.