A rite of passage for many teens and young adults is having one’s wisdom teeth pulled. Rarely do these teeth ever come in straight if at all, and getting them pulled is necessary to prevent future complications. However, for one teen, the procedure turned deadly.

Leejay Levene, an 18-year-old from Canada stopped breathing after being given anesthesia to have three wisdom teeth pulled. The surgery hadn’t even begun, and the anesthesiologist tried to resuscitate him while Dr. Timothy Wallace, the oral surgeon, called 9-1-1. Nothing like this had ever happened in the 32 years and 12,000 patients whose wisdom teeth he had removed in the past. Nobody could figure out what went wrong to make Levene stop breathing though someone later noticed that there was a kink in the oxygen tube being supplied to Levene, blocking the air from getting through. Seven minutes after the call, an ambulance arrived fallowed by another with more advanced equipment five minutes later. By then, Levene’s heart had stopped breathing.

He was rushed to Grand River Hospital where he was put on life support. His heart had begun beating again, but the rest of his organs weren’t functioning. The next day, his parents made the decision to disconnect him, and he was declared dead last Thursday at 6:24 p.m. Levene had just graduated from Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School in Waterloo and planned to attend the University of Toronto in September. He was hoping to graduate with a degree in architecture and then go for his master’s at Dalhousie University.

Levene was reported to have been nervous about the surgery, like many patients are beforehand. He was concerned that since he breathed through his mouth all the time that he would lose control of his breathing in the chair. His teeth were embedded in the bone, and in most cases, patients prefer anesthetic for such procedures. Dr. Wallace uses an anesthesiologist who comes to his office twice a week to assist in wisdom tooth extractions.

A study 10 years ago found that one in every 700,000 people die when given a general anesthetic in a dentist’s chair. This makes death one of the last problems to fear when having wisdom teeth pulled. More common complications are less severe such as paresthesia and a dry socket. Paresthesia is when a surgeon bruises or damages the nerves that lie near a wisdom tooth, causing numbness of the tongue, lip, or chin that usually goes away within days or weeks. In the most severe cases, it can last for months or even become permanent. A dry socket is when a blood clot becomes dislodged or fails to form around the extracted tooth’s socket causing pain a few days after the tooth is extracted. The pain may range from moderate to severe and creates a foul odor. These are problems that Leejay Levene was probably told to prepare himself for. Death was not one of them.

For related articles visit

http://www.therecord.com/home_page_front_story/home_page_front_story_1096519.html and http://www.animatedteeth.com/wisdom_teeth/t3_wisdom_tooth_removal.htm.

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