The 38-year-old man’s doctors reported the rare finding in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday.
The man had visited an ear, nose and throat clinic in New York’s Mount Sinai hospital and said he faced difficulty breathing through his right nostril, a complexity he had been struggling with for several years.
A physical examination revealed a deviation in his septum – the cartilage that separates the two nostrils – the doctors said in the study. The examination also revealed a 2-cm-long perforation at the back of the septum and calcified obstructions.
A rhinoscopy – a procedure for examining the nose – detected a “hard, non-tender, white mass” on the floor of the right nostril.
A computed tomography (CT) scan of the paranasal sinuses – or air-filled spaces that surround the nasal cavity – showed a “well-defined, radiodense mass consistent with an inverted ectopic tooth” in the right nasal cavity.
This patient’s tooth, measuring 14mm in length, was removed through surgery. The doctors pointed out that the patient’s breathing difficulty was resolved after a follow-up examination three months after the surgery took place.
Ectopic teeth are the kind that do not follow their usual course during formation and are usually found growing in places they are not supposed to.
Such teeth can grow for several reasons apart from deviating from their path. At times, permanent adult teeth can grow out during the process of replacing baby teeth and a baby tooth can end up staying in an awkward position inside the mouth.
Abnormalities in the rate of jaw growth or the positions of other teeth can also contribute to this issue.
However, failure to treat ectopic eruption can result in a loss of arch length, inadequate space for permanent teeth and also result in crooked teeth, according to a 2011 study published by the US’s National Centre for Biotechnology Information.
Ectopic teeth are a rare occurrence and are found only in 0.1 per cent to 1 per cent of the population, according to researchers.