College Student has Wisdom Teeth Removed but Becomes Septic and was Placed on Ventilator for 2 Weeks


This special care dentistry case involves a 23-year-old female patient that presented to her dentist with complaints of a cracked tooth and severe tooth pain. The dentist advised her that her molar teeth needed removal and on that visit, she had a one step root canal performed. The patient developed a severe mouth infection two days following the procedure with associated trismus symptoms. Several complications arose which required that the patient be placed on a ventilator for 9 days due to sepsis and respiratory failure.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. What could have been done to prevent such a severe outcome?

Expert Witness Response E-000834

Unless a patient has an artificial heart valve or another predisposing factor, prophylactic antibiotics aren’t given for dental work. The chances of getting an infection following an extraction are very small, and on a population basis, more harm is caused than good by giving prophylactic antibiotics. What happened in this case is indeed terrible, but the blame may not reside with the dentist, as he followed standard procedure. However, if the dentist did not start the patient on antibiotics as soon as the first symptoms were noticed then negligence may be a factor.

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