Patient dies while having wisdom teeth removed, parents sue

Illinois patients may understand that there are many risks involved whenever an individual undergoes surgery. But when patients undergo a surgery that is commonly performed in Chicago and throughout the entire nation, such as having one’s wisdom teeth removed, patients may assume that there is little risk of anything going wrong during or after the procedure.

But in April, the parents of a 17-year-old girl learned just how dangerous having one’s wisdom teeth removed can be after their daughter died from oxygen deprivation during the commonly performed surgery. Now the parents are suing the oral surgeon and the anesthesiologist for medical malpractice. The lawsuit claims that the medical professionals are responsible for the teen’s wrongful death after they failed to resuscitate her in time when complications were first noted during the wisdom tooth surgery.

According to the American Journal of Public Health, about 10 million wisdom teeth are pulled each year in the U.S. Extraction is often recommended in order to prevent individuals from developing infections, cavities, cysts, tumors and damage to other teeth and bones. But some question whether or not the surgery is even necessary for most individuals.

A dental consultant and author told ABC News that about two thirds of the surgeries are unnecessary. And, like any other surgery, these individuals are put at risk of suffering serious complications during or after the procedure if it is not performed properly.

Some complications include: jaw and tooth fractures, brain tissue infections, excessive bleeding and hypoxia. In addition to these complications, about 11,000 people suffer from permanent nerve damage to the tongue, cheeks or lips after undergoing the surgery each year.

The parents of the 17-year-old girl who died during her wisdom tooth surgery claim that the oral surgeon and anesthesiologist were negligent during the operation because they failed to try to resuscitate the teen, even after her blood oxygen level and heart rate began to drop. Had the medical professionals addressed the concern immediately, it is believed that the couple’s daughter would still be alive.

Every year, about 5 million Americans undergo surgery to have their wisdom teeth removed. Although doctors may feel comfortable performing the surgeries, they should be reminded that they can never be too careful and that they should always be prepared when emergency situations arise.

Source: ABC News, “Parents Sue After Teen Dies During Wisdom Tooth Surgery,” Katie Moisse, Dec. 15, 2011

Wrongful Death


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