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ScienceShot: Doctors Take Aim at ... The Tooth Fairy

Helen Fields is a freelance science writer based in Washington, D.C.

In a new article, four London doctors warn of a professional who is committing malpractice and getting away with it: the tooth fairy. They report on an 8-year-old boy who was sent to an allergist because of his epic runny nose. Regular old medical treatment didn't work, so the next step was a CT scan. The scan showed signs of inflammation in the sinuses. But it also revealed something more surprising: a tooth in his left ear canal. It turned out that 3 years before, the boy had woken up "extremely distressed" because the tooth fairy had taken the tooth from under his pillow and jammed it in his ear. His parents thought that was pretty unlikely, although the tooth had indeed gone missing. Two doctors that looked in his ear over the years failed to see anything—but the boy was right, it turned out. An ear, nose, and throat surgeon removed the tooth, the authors report in the often goofy Christmas issue of BMJ. "The patient decided to keep the tooth for posterity rather than taking the risk of attempting a further pecuniary reward," they write. They also point out that there are no standard operating procedures for the tooth fairy, and doctors should be on the lookout for his or her shoddy work.

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Posted in Health