Woman has all teeth removed and jaw replaced three times after root canal surgery led to infection


A mother-of-two’s jaw ‘turned to mush’ and lost all of her teeth after what she believes was a bungled root canal.

Meighan Maselli, from Saratoga County in New York state, had root canal treatment in 2017. What was supposed to be a routine dental procedure turned out to be the start of an 18-month nightmare. 

She claims she heard a ‘crack’ in her jaw as she was treated, but did not flag it because she presumed it was part of the treatment.

But within days she was in agony and went to the local emergency department, where she was diagnosed with osteomyelitis in her jaw — infection in the bone.

It can occur after a broken bone, when normally harmless bacteria can seep inside a bone and infect it. 

Looking back, Ms Maselli believes the crunch she heard on the dentist chair was part of her jawbone breaking. 

Over the following six months when the pain did not subside and her jaw began to rot, she was forced to go under the knife.

Medics replaced her entire lower jaw with metal rods and took her teeth out for good to prevent further infection. 

She was forced to live with rods in her face for a full year before doctors grafted her a new jawbone using bones from other parts of her body. 

The former nursing assistant, who is now unemployed, said she has lost 170 pounds (77kg) since the start of her ordeal because she struggles to eat.

Meighan Maselli (pictured before her dental ordeal) from Saratoga County in New York, had a root canal and two teeth removed in 2018 after her dentist spotted they were infected during a routine appointment

Meighan Maselli (pictured before her dental ordeal), from Saratoga County in New York state, had root canal treatment and two teeth removed in 2017

What was supposed to be a routine dental procedure turned out to be the start of an 18-month nightmare. She claims she heard a 'crack' in her jaw as she was treated, but did not flag it because she presumed it was the sound of her teeth being pulled. She's pictured above after a third operation in September 2019, where her jaw had to be rebuilt

What was supposed to be a routine dental procedure turned out to be the start of an 18-month nightmare. She claims she heard a ‘crack’ in her jaw as she was treated, but did not flag it because she presumed it was the sound of her teeth being pulled. She’s pictured above after a third operation in September 2019, where her jaw had to be rebuilt

Medics replaced her entire lower jaw with metal rods and took her teeth out (shown) for good to prevent further infection

Medics replaced her entire lower jaw with metal rods and took her teeth out (shown) for good to prevent further infection

Ms Maselli, who still suffers from excruciating pain, said she barely leaves her home in case she gets cold, because shivering tenses her jaw and causes ‘the worst pain’.

She said: ‘I was a beautiful girl with a young son at the time and he is traumatized by this.’

In April 2017, Ms Maselli had a root canal and two molars removed by a surgeon, as they had become too infected to be saved by a filling.

She said: ‘I felt it, this hurt — he couldn’t get them out and I heard a crack. I didn’t know if it was jaw or tooth.

‘The next day it was painful. I didn’t have anything, no antibiotics.’

After five days of non-stop pain, she went to hospital where an X-ray revealed she had osteomyelitis in her lower jawbone.

WHAT IS OSTEOMYELITIS?

Osteomyelitis is a painful bone infection that usually affects the legs.

It usually goes away if treated early with antibiotics. If not, it can cause permanent damage. 

Anyone can develop osteomyelitis and it can occur spontaneously. Around two to five people per 10,000 suffer from the condition.

But people are more at risk if they have recently broken a bone, suffered an injury that has left a wound or have a weakened immune system.

Osteomyelitis sufferers are usually treated with a four to 12-week course of antibiotics, which may initially require a hospital stay so the drugs can be administered through a drip in more severe cases.

However, some people require surgery to remove the damaged part of the bone if a build up of pus develops inside it or if the infection has lasted for a long time and caused the bone to die.

Sometimes multiple surgeries are required to treat the infection. Medics might need to use muscle and skin from other parts of the body to repair the area near the affected bone.  

Most cases of osteomyelitis are caused by staphylococcus bacteria, types of germs commonly found on the skin or in the nose of even healthy individuals. 

Germs can enter a bone in a variety of ways, including the bloodstream, which is why it is more common after a broken bone.

People are more susceptible if they have a weakened immune system. It is most common in children.

Ms Maselli claims hospital doctors refused to treat her and told her to go back to the dentist.

She went home, but woke up the next day with a huge abscess under her chin and green pus came out of her jaw whenever she touched it.

Ms Maselli rushed to the emergency department at Albany Memorial Hospital and was given a two-week course of antibiotics.

She said: ‘The abscess was still there and it’s just getting worse. It hadn’t gone down at all, every night I was in pain.

‘I was on the floor crying and there was nothing I could do. I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything.

‘I had green pus dripping down the back of my mouth, when you pressed on my jaw green stuff came out the back.’

In November 2017, she visited Albany Medical Center, and after seeing her condition, nurses quickly rushed her to see a doctor.

She said: ‘He came out and said “get her down to CAT scan now”.

‘My jaw, from the back of my mouth to the middle of the chin where the abscess was, was gone.

‘He said “your teeth are sitting in mush” and there was nothing they could do for me.’

After being redirected from two more medical facilities, she was finally sent to an oral surgeon at Montefiore Hospital, 170 miles from her home city.

She said: ‘They said they were going to take out the lower half of my infected jaw and were essentially going to clean it all out and put a rod in there.

‘I was petrified, I was so scared. My biggest fear was my teeth, always has been; I didn’t have bad teeth I always went to the dentist.’

Osteomyelitis sufferers are usually treated with a four to 12-week course of antibiotics, which may initially require a hospital stay so the drugs can be administered through a drip in more severe cases.

However, some people require surgery to remove the damaged part of the bone if a build up of pus develops inside it or if the infection has lasted for a long time.

Sometimes multiple surgeries are required to treat the infection. Medics might need to use muscle and skin from other parts of the body to repair the area near the affected bone. 

Ms Maselli had her first six-hour surgery in January 2018 and went home a few days later, although her face was still hugely swollen.

She said: ‘My whole face was numb, it had swollen up to the size of a balloon. I’ve had multiple caesareans and this has all been worse.

Ms Maselliwoke up the next day with a huge abscess under her chin and green pus came out of her jaw whenever she touched it. Ms Maselli rushed to the emergency department at Albany Memorial Hospital and was given a two-week course of antibiotics

Ms Maselliwoke up the next day with a huge abscess under her chin and green pus came out of her jaw whenever she touched it. Ms Maselli rushed to the emergency department at Albany Memorial Hospital and was given a two-week course of antibiotics

‘I didn’t know your face could swell as big as it did, I didn’t know it was humanly possible.’

In March 2018, during a check up, she was told the rod had made the infection worse and she must have another eight-hour surgery to rebuild her jaw using bone from her hip.

She said: ‘I was so scared when they were talking about taking bones from another place in my body — I had never been through anything like this.

‘I came out with a scar on my hip four inches long that goes right up to 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 this started after that surgery.’

Despite all the procedures, her face still felt irritated and she returned to Albany Medical Center in June 2018.

Another CAT scan showed the hip bone that had been moved to her face had died — which can occur due to a lack of blood supply — and was moving up through her lip.

Surgeons removed it from her jaw and tried to clean the area, and also removed all her teeth to prevent any further infection from spreading.

After they were satisfied that any infection from the dead bone had passed, she was underwent a third operation in September 2019 rebuild her jaw using bone from her shinbone. 

During the 18-hour procedure, medics also took muscle from her breast to reconstruct part of her neck.

She said: ‘I remember crying, I had a scar on my chest that went down below my breast all the way up to my neck, and I had staples all the way round.

‘I had tubes coming out of my legs and a breathing tube.

Ms Maselli had her first six-hour surgery in January 2018 and went home a few days later, although her face was still hugely swollen. She said: 'My whole face was numb, it had swollen up to the size of a balloon. I've had multiple caesareans and this has all been worse'

Ms Maselli had her first six-hour surgery in January 2018 and went home a few days later, although her face was still hugely swollen. She said: ‘My whole face was numb, it had swollen up to the size of a balloon. I’ve had multiple caesareans and this has all been worse’

‘My face was so swollen, it was purple and had blood all over, they tried to clean me but there was so much blood. I had chunks of blood in my hair and ears.’

Ms Maselli said: ‘It was scary — I had no skin, it was like yellow. It was all muscle, you could see the muscle they used from my breast.’

Since then she has had three more surgical procedures to thin down the thick skin on her neck that had been added from her breast to protect her jaw during the surgery.

Ms Maselli said her frequent hospitalisations and surgery complications have stopped her from working since her original root canal in 2017, forcing her 19-year-old daughter Deonna act as her carer.

She said: ‘When I do eat it’s always soft foods, I live on eggs, pasta, chicken and hamburgers.

‘But textures are hard for me so typically I eat a few bites then my jaw gets tight and tired.

‘I can’t even go outside in the winter months unless absolutely necessary because shivering is the absolute worst.

‘Because it tenses your jaw so much, for me, it’s probably the worst pain of this.’

While fortunately all her procedures were covered by insurance, she wants to share her story to help others suffering as a result of medical complications to feel less alone.

She said: ‘People shouldn’t be treated this way, where do you go when it’s too hard medically to prove who is at fault?

‘I’ve called so many doctors to see if they can help me and everybody tells me to go back where it started. I cry every day. It is the worst.

‘The first thought and last thought of my days are always regarding my face in some way. 

‘The amount of stress on my body, it’s like going to bed being 32 and waking up looking 70. I want other people like me know that they’re not alone.’

Ms Maselli added: ‘I’ve lost half my breast as part of this surgery I had, I have got scars on my hip, my leg and my face.

‘I’m 36 now and I’m disabled, I have no teeth, and I’m stuck at home not working

‘We’re struggling, my kid can’t leave home to go to college as she is working full time to help me pay my bills.

‘Half of my jaw had been eaten away before anyone took me seriously. If I can avoid looking in the mirror I do.’ 

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