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Teen Dies After Wisdom Tooth Surgery, Parents Sue

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on December 20, 2011 8:44 AM

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Jenny Olenick, a 17-year-old girl who died after wisdom tooth surgery this past April. The teen's parents have accused the oral surgeon and anesthesiologist of negligence and medical malpractice.

The two doctors reportedly failed to resuscitate the teen after her heart rate slowed to a dangerously low level. Emergency personnel were not called until she began losing oxygen.

Apparently, dental-related deaths are not that rare.

And neither are other injuries. Though Americans have 10 million wisdom teeth pulled each year, it is rife with risks. Patients can experience nerve damage, fractures and brain infections. Anesthesia significantly adds to this list.

Jenny Olenick died of hypoxia, which the Baltimore Sun reports is a deprivation of oxygen. When her pulse and oxygen levels dropped, she suffered severe brain swelling. After 10 days in a coma, she died.

Anesthesia patients are supposed to be monitored closely. Medical equipment and visual inspection should be used to keep a close eye on oxygen levels and pulse, according to the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation.

It's unclear whether Olenick's doctors used one of these devices. In-office procedures receive significantly less oversight than those performed at hospitals or out-patient clinics. It thus wouldn't be surprising if they didn't.

Though you can't plan for everything, there are some steps you can take to mitigate the risks of such surgery:

  • Only used an ADA-certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon. They are specially trained to use anesthesia.
  • Ensure that your doctor has electronic monitoring equipment.
  • Have your doctor explain what can go wrong and his planned response.
  • Ask for alternatives to anesthesia.

Jenny Olenick may have died from wisdom tooth surgery, but you don't have to.

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