For a child, losing a tooth is a fun rite of passage and may even be exciting when the ‘tooth fairy’ brings gifts to mark the event. But for Gili Bezalel, a nine-year-old from Misgav, a small community in Northern Israel, her loose baby tooth turned into a medical emergency. Children lose all their baby teeth between the ages of 6–12. Baby teeth, sometimes called milk- or deciduous, are smooth and small. A swallowed baby tooth, even one with sharp edges, will usually pass through the digestive system without causing any harm.
A few days ago, Gili was at school when she felt her loose tooth come out and accidentally swallowed it. Her teacher called her parents and explained that Gili was complaining of pain when she took deep breaths. Her parents took her to their local community clinic, where the medical team performed an imaging test and technical examination to see if the swallowed tooth had become stuck in her esophagus.
Unable to make a definitive diagnosis, the physicians in the community clinic advised her parents to take Gili to the Cheryl Spencer Pediatric Emergency Department at the Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital at Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam). Upon further examination and testing, it was discovered that Gili’s tooth was blocking her airway – a medical and life-threatening emergency. Her condition quickly worsened; she suffered from shortness of breath, collapsed, and had to be placed on a respirator.
Gili was transferred to the Goldie Feldman Pediatric Emergency Trauma Unit. Dr. Idit Pasternak, Deputy Director of the Cheryl Spencer Pediatric Emergency Department in the Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital, and the physician who treated Gili recalls, “At one point, the girl’s life was in danger. As soon as her condition stabilized, we rushed her to the operating room, and in a gentle procedure using a guided camera we pulled the tooth from her lung. Shortly after that, Gili was weaned off the respirator and transferred to the Wagner Green Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital for further observation. The next morning, she was discharged and sent home, feeling healthy and well.”
Noa Katz, Gili’s mother, is grateful. “We were lucky to be in the right place at the right time.” After the incident, Gili returned to school and shared the experience with her friends.
“A case of suffocation may be life-threatening,” Dr. Pasternak comments, “If a child is suffocating, is suspected or known to have a foreign object in the mouth, don’t take chances. Get to a hospital emergency room, get checked by a doctor who will listen to the lungs, perform image testing if necessary, and decide on continuing treatment. Fortunately, this story ended well.”
The Ruth Rappaport Children's Hospital at Rambam provides advanced medical services and a comprehensive approach to treatment in every area of children's healthcare. It is the only children's hospital dedicated exclusively to pediatric medicine in Northern Israel.