WARNING: This story contains content that may upset some readers
A devastated mum has told how all of her teeth and most of her jawbone had to be removed after a routine visit to the dentist.
Meighan Maselli, 36, initially just needed a root canal and two teeth removed after a dentist spotted them infected during a routine appointment.
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But days later she was in agony and was diagnosed with osteomyelitis in her lower jaw – inflammation caused by an infection elsewhere in the body.
He became so infected that doctors had to remove almost all of his lower jaw and replace it with a metal rod, removing all of his upper and lower teeth to prevent further infection.
“I hardly leave my house anymore. I was a beautiful girl with a young son at the time and he’s traumatized by it,” said the mom, from New York.
“I lost half of my breast in this surgery I had, I have scars on my hip, leg and face.
“I’m 36 now and I’m disabled, I have no teeth and I’m stuck at home without working.
“We are struggling, my daughter can’t leave home to go to university as she works full time to help me pay my bills.
“Half my jaw had been eaten away before anyone took me seriously.
“If I can avoid looking in the mirror, I do.”
In April 2017, Meighan had a root canal and a molar on either side of her lower teeth had to be removed by an oral surgeon because they had become too infected to save with a filling.
“I felt it, that pain – he couldn’t get them out and I heard a crack,” she explained. “I didn’t know if it was the jawbone or the tooth.
“They think that when the dentist pulled my teeth out, the crack could have been fracturing his bone because it had been weakened.
“The next day it was painful, I had nothing, no antibiotics.
“The next day it was really sore in my jaw and on my face.”
Four days later the pain still hadn’t subsided, so she had an x-ray which revealed she had osteomyelitis in her mandible.
Osteomyelitis is inflammation or swelling that occurs in the bone and is caused by an infection that has spread from elsewhere in the body or originated in the bone itself.
Meighan believes she developed the condition due to an infection in her tooth, caused by the root canal treatment.
“He looked in my mouth and said ‘I’m not going to touch you, you have to go back to the people who did this,'” Meighan said.
“I didn’t know where I was going or what I was going to do – I was scared.”
She went home, but the next day woke up with a huge abscess under her chin.
She was rushed to the emergency room at Albany Memorial Hospital and given two weeks of antibiotic treatment.
“The abscess was still there and it’s only getting worse,” Meighan said.
“It hadn’t gone down at all, every night I was in pain. I was on the floor crying and I couldn’t do anything.
“I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything.”
In November 2017, she went to Albany Medical Center and, after seeing her condition, the nurses took her to see a doctor.
She said: “He came out and said ‘scan her now’.
“My jawline, from the back of my mouth to the middle of my chin where the abscess was, was gone.
“He said ‘your teeth are mush’ and they couldn’t do anything for me.”
She was eventually sent to an oral surgeon at Montefiore Hospital.
She said: ‘They said they were going to take the lower half of my infected jawbone out and basically they were going to clean it all up and put a rod in there.
“I was petrified, I was so scared.
“My biggest fear was my teeth, it always has been; I didn’t have bad teeth – I always went to the dentist.
“I was petrified, I was so scared.“
Meighan underwent six-hour surgery in January 2018 and returned home a few days later, although her face was still extremely swollen.
The former graduate nursing assistant said: “My whole face was numb, it had swollen up to the size of a balloon.
“I had several caesarean sections and it all got worse.
“I didn’t know your face could swell up so much, I didn’t know it was humanly possible.”
In March 2018, during a check-up, she was told the stalk had made the infection worse and she would have to undergo another eight-hour surgery to rebuild her jawbone, using her hip bone.
She said: ‘I was so scared when they talked about taking bones from another place in my body – I had never experienced anything like this.
“I walked out with a four inch long scar on my hip that goes down the middle of my back.
“The lower part of my face is numb, from the middle of my lip to the corner of my mouth and my chin down, I have no feeling, and it started after this surgery.”
Despite all the procedures, another CT scan showed that her hip bone was completely dead inside her face and was coming up through her lip.
Surgeons removed it from his jawbone and tried to clean the area, and also removed all of his teeth to prevent any further infection from spreading.
After being satisfied that any infection in the dead bone had passed, she was taken in for major 18-hour surgery to remove the bone from her shin and then reconstruct her jawbone in September 2019.
She said: ‘I remember crying, I had a scar on my chest that went down under my chest to my neck, and I had staples all around.
“I had tubes coming out of my legs and a breathing tube.
“My face was so swollen it was purple and there was blood everywhere, they tried to clean me up but there was so much blood.”
Since then, she has had three more surgeries to thin the thick skin on her neck, which had been added from her chest to protect her jawbone during the operation.
Meighan’s frequent hospitalizations, as well as her disability, have kept her from working since her initial root canal treatment in 2017.
These have affected her family, forcing her 19-year-old daughter Deonna to stay home and care for her mother instead of moving for college.
She said: ‘When I eat it is always soft food, I eat eggs, pasta, chicken and burgers.
“I can’t even go outside during the winter months unless absolutely necessary because the chills are the absolute worst.
“Because it’s so jaw-dropping, to me, that’s probably the worst pain of all of this.”
“Cry Every Day”
Although all of her procedures were covered by insurance, she wants to share her story to help others with medical complications feel less alone.
“I cry everyday. It’s the worst. The first and last thought of my days is always about my face in some way.
“The amount of stress on my body is like going to bed at 32 and waking up at 70.
“I want other people like me to know that they are not alone.”