PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The confines of her tiny apartment are both her refuge and her prison. Wisps of essential oils mist up from a glass diffuser. Crystals hanging in the single living room window reflect small rainbows, creating a hippy chic and soothing vibe. The efforts to create a comfortable environment are clear, but the harsh reality is, Ginger Peters feels she’s spent the last 11 years of her life dying a slow death.
Describing the 58-year-old as frail is an understatement. The slightest physical exertion, even showering, leaves her exhausted. Her current physical condition is a stark change from the once athletic woman who surfed and skied. At her lowest weight, the 5’9″ blond dropped to just 85 pounds, her flesh stretched across her protruding bones.
Peters says her life fell apart after a dentist convinced her to pull 22 teeth and replace them with dental implants. She says he told her it would help her recover from Valley fever. (Note: Health care professionals contacted during this investigation said they had not heard of pulling teeth to treat Valley fever.)
Dental implants consist of three parts. The base, considered the “implant,” is a screw-like piece that is drilled into the jawbone. The implant acts as “the root” of the artificial tooth. An abutment is a middle piece that attaches the implant base to the artificial tooth or teeth.
Peters says her new sets of teeth, both upper and lower, never fit correctly. Instead of locking into place, Peters’ artificial teeth fall out and move around in her mouth, leaving her unable to chew food.
A stack of medical records provided by Peters shows at least one of her doctors has linked a wide range of health and digestive problems to her implants and her inability to eat. However, no one has pinpointed why Peters has ongoing pain, infections, rashes on her face and neck and sores and inflammation in her mouth. Peters’ case is extreme but problems with dental implants are not uncommon.
Nearly 3 million reports of problems
A surge of reports of problems with dental implants may have remained almost impossible to find if it wasn’t for a former FDA data analyst. After leaving the FDA, Madris Kinard started Device Events. Her company specializes in searching through data in the FDA’s MAUDE database, which contains reports of the problems with medical devices reported to the FDA. MAUDE stands for Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience.
MAUDE can be cumbersome and difficult to search, producing only 500 reports at a time. Kinard’s software sorts through millions of reports in seconds, allowing her to compile data that may take other researchers weeks to gather. Searching MAUDE, Kinard discovered dental implants have nearly 3 million reports of problems, more than any other medical device.