A woman has revealed how a drill bit remained lodged in her mouth for more than two years after it snapped off during a routine visit to the dentist.
Medics have been unable to retrieve the metal from Alison Southwood’s jaw, despite several consultations with some of the best dentists in the country.
The drill piece is located so close to a nerve that they fear removing it could cause her to lose sensation in the side of her face.
Although it has made no admissions of liability, the dentistry firm reached a settlement with Southwood, paying her £5500 in an out-of-court settlement.
The 44-year-old, a sales and innovation manager, said she has faced a long ordeal since the drill slipped in March 2013.
"I went to the dentist for routine root canal surgery," she said. "I can’t believe how much stress and misery has been caused by what should have been a simple operation."
Southwood, of Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, went to Genix Healthcare in Cirencester for root canal surgery.
Her mouth was numbed, which meant she did not feel anything when the drill snapped just minutes into the procedure. But she said she knew "straight away" what had happened.
"A hush descended on the room and the dentist and dental nurse exchanged worried glances," she said. "They legged it out the room for a private discussion.
"I was just left to lie there and wonder how they were going to break the news to me."
Southwood was told the drill was lodged too far down into her jaw bone to retrieve it, and all they could do was fill the hole and send her home.
"I was in shock, just going through the motions so I could get out of there as soon as possible," she said.
"They said they weren’t sure what to do next and I told them they’d better figure it out. I was totally dumfounded that I was just sent on my way with the drill still lodged in my jaw."
The 44-year-old consulted a string of specialists, but none wanted to attempt to retrieve the drill as, being so near the nerve, it posed too great a risk of permanent loss of sensation down the side of her face.
Meanwhile, her tooth was left to rot beyond repair and she is now facing having it extracted.
It is hoped that, by removing the tooth, surgeons will be able to reach and remove the drill.
"It’s a race against time to get it out," she said. "If left for too long, the metal could cause a toxic reaction. It’s an absolutely terrifying thought."
Currently, she has a temporary filling while she waits for a replacement tooth to be fitted.
"The filling is slightly discoloured so it’s a permanent reminder of what happened," Southwood said.
"I’ve had to choose between either that or a gap in my smile. If it was just for a couple of weeks, I wouldn’t mind, I’d just avoid going out. But I’ve been told it could be a year before I have my replacement tooth.
"Even then, I’ll have to deal with having a false tooth years before anyone would reasonably expect me to."
Following the incident, Southwood approached the Dental Law Partnership, who took on her case in November 2013.
After a 16 month legal battle, damages of £5,500 were awarded to her in February 2015.
"I’m not a litigious person, but the settlement money was necessary to cover my treatment costs," she said.
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Reflecting on her ordeal, Southwood said: "I’m gearing myself up to have the implant tooth fitted. I know it’ll be painful but hopefully it’ll help put this nightmare behind me.
"I’m still appalled that I was told they usually just hope patients don’t notice when this kind of thing happens.
"I wonder how many people are walking round with no idea they have metal lodged in their mouths.
"Whatever happens, I know I’ll never be able to get back in the dentist’s chair for another root canal treatment."
A spokesperson for Genix Healthcare commented: "We are totally committed to ensuring the safety of our patients and the high quality of dental treatment and care provided.
"We strive to make sure all patients know and understand the potential risk of any dental procedure they undertake and we enforce vigorous quality assurance protocols to minimise this risk as much as possible.
"We take any patient concerns very seriously – we strive to resolve any issues in a timely and amicable manner on the rare occasions that they arise."