This is what happens when you find the tooth
behind a man’s breathing problems. A
case report recently published in 
The New England Journal
of Medicine
 described how something up a 38-year-old man’s
nose had made it more difficult for him to breathe through his right nostril
for several years. And it wasn’t a rubber hose.

the case report, two oral surgeons, Sagar Khanna, B.D.S., D.D.S. Michael
Turner, D.D.S., M.D., from the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, NY,
described this tooth fairy interesting discovery. The man had visited an
otolaryngology clinic where his doctor found the septum of his nose to be
deviated. The septum is the piece of cartilage separates your nose into two
possible entry points for when you want to pick your nose. A deviated septum is
when this cartilage is off-center, pushed somewhat to one side. A deviated
septum alone can made it more difficult to breathe out of one nostril. But
there was more.

man’s septum also had some unusual bony protrusions as well as a 2-cm hole.
This hole problem prompted the doctor to conduct a rhinoscopy exam. Now, a
rhinoscopy isn’t what you do at a nightclub full of rhinos. Instead, in this
case, “rhino” is the medical prefix for “nose.” And a scope is a medical device
that allows you to look into particular parts of the body. Thus a rhinoscope is
a thin tube equipped with a camera that you can insert into a nostril and use
to view inside the nasal cavity. The rhinoscopy then revealed a “hard,
nontender, white mass” in the man’s right nostril.

This, of course, is not what you should
typically find in one’s nostril, assuming that you didn’t store a “hard,
nontender, white mass” in your nose. A CT (computed tomography) subsequently
confirmed that this mass was in fact an upside down tooth lodged in his nasal
cavity. Of course, a tooth, whether upside down or right side up, doesn’t
belong up your nose. After all, you don’t typically shove a burrito up your
nose to chew on it.

the tooth in the following tweet from the New England Journal of Medicine:

So, the oral surgeons deemed this to be an
ectopic tooth. defines “ectopic” as “
occurring in an abnormal position or place.” Surgeons then removed this tooth, which ended
up measuring 14 mm in length. The man had a smooth recovery from the surgery
and three months later was no longer experiencing any issues breathing.
Ultimately, the man didn’t want the tooth because his nose couldn’t handle the

Obviously, this was an unusual case. The next
time you have some issues breathing through your nostril, your first thought
shouldn’t be, “darn, I must have a tooth growing there.” Instead, consider much
common causes first such as allergies, a cold, a sinus infection, a deviated
nasal septum, oversized adenoids, nasal polyps, or a foreign object up your
nose. So if you do have any problems breathing through your nose and at the
same time can’t remember where your placed your loose change, there might
possible be a single answer behind both issues.

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