Three Georgia boys die unexpectedly after dental work - CBS46 News

Three Georgia boys die unexpectedly after dental procedure

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

CBS Atlanta News is breaking an exclusive investigation into what caused three Georgia boys to lose their lives following what should have been routine medical procedures.

All three boys, ages 14 to 21, died within a month of each other in a string of tragic and bizarre deaths. They all had their wisdom teeth extracted 16 to 72 hours before they died.

"You take your kids to doctors and dentists, and you don't expect this. You don't expect to lose them," said Bobbie Ellis, the father of Ben Ellis, one of the victims.

The grieving families are speaking out for the first time, only to CBS Atlanta Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman.  They're sharing their emotional stories as a warning to other parents.

"He was the baby, I miss him terribly," Karan Ellis said about the loss of Ben.

The pain is still extremely raw for the Bobbie and Karan Ellis and the other families, who all lost their sons just four months ago.

"A family should be informed that there is a possibility that your child may not wake up," Lisa Robinson said.

The Robinsons and the Ellis family agreed to speak with CBS Atlanta News to warn others of the dangers they say they were never told about.

"You don't want to go through what we've went through. There are too many kids dying out there. Something needs to be done," Bobbie Ellis said.

The Ellis' son was just 14 years old when they say their oral surgeon recommended that he have all four of his wisdom teeth removed.

"That's my baby, and his beautiful smile" Karan Ellis said.  "That's all I've got now is his pictures."

"We have pictures, but we don't have our son," Bobbie Ellis cried.

Ben's wisdom teeth were removed on Dec. 7, 2011.

"He had Jello that night and a little bit of ice cream," Bobbie Ellis said.  "We just watched TV, he seemed perfectly fine."

But 16 hours later, Ben was dead.

"I went in to get him up, and there he was, in the bed," Karan Ellis sobbed.

"He was laying on his stomach with his head on his pillow and I rolled him over and I knew something was wrong," Bobbie Ellis continued.

"I was saying, 'Do something!' but he was already gone," Karan Ellis cried.

Although the three deaths may seem unusual, dental deaths are more common than you might imagine.

It was a similar story for Lisa and Ronald Robinson.

"That is the first thing they said, everything went well, the surgery went well," said Lisa Robinson about her son Marcellous' wisdom teeth extraction in December 2011.

"He was my joy," Ronald Robinson said.

Marcellous was born with cerebral palsy and his life was cut short. Three days after his surgery, his parents fond him in his bed.  His lips were blue and he was already dead.

"I went into his room and I saw him face down," Lisa Robinson said.

"I screamed out, basically," Ronald Robinson said. "I screamed out that he was gone."

The Robinsons believed he drowned in his own blood.

"The blood was so dark, when we were administering CPR. The blood and the stuff that was coming out of him was about as black as this cloth I have in my hand," Lisa Robinson said.

Marcellous' death was ruled natural, but the coroner was not able to determine what cased him to die.

Saltzman also spoke to Tracy Knight, whose 19-year-old son Jerry Coleman also died after a dental procedure.

"He had a heart for people, he was always trying to help, always giving," Knight said.

Jerry's death was ruled to be due to a reaction to penicillin.

"He didn't answer the door when I knocked and so I just decided to go in," Knight said. "And that's when I found him."

But right now, there is still no conclusion about what caused Ellis and Robinson to die.

Dental expert Dr. Crystal Baxter says infections are one of the leading causes of dental deaths.

"The patient could develop a post-operative infection and that could lead to fatality," Baxter said. "You get swelling of the brain and then you get either brain damage or brain death."

Dr. Baxter says our mouths have more bacteria than any other part of our body, and that bacteria can get into the blood stream and become deadly. And the worse condition a patients mouth is in, the higher the chances of complications.

Other causes of death following dental procedures can range from a reaction to anesthesia to inhaling blood into the lungs which could cause suffocation. Reactions to prescribed drugs are also a cause.

"A family should be informed that there is a possibility that your child may not wake up," Lisa Robinson said.

"This is the hardest thing you ever have to go through," Karan Ellis agreed.

Doctor Baxter's Tips for Parents:

  •  Make sure if you (or your child) are having wisdom teeth extracted, you're using an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, not just a dentist.
  •  Schedule a consultation appointment where the risks and benefits are thoroughly explained to you by the surgeon and/or one of their staff members.
  •  Ask if there are specific risks in this case.  For example: Are your teeth close to nerves or sinus cavities?
  •  You should not feel rushed nor feel that the surgeon has no time for your questions.
  •  Get another opinion if the surgeon is brusque, rude or seems distracted.
  •  Check for complaints against your surgeon by contacting the Georgia State Dental Board. They keep lists on dentists with complaints and lawsuits against them.

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