An 18-year-old Long Island, Maine high school student died back in February, and now, medical examiners say that he developed a flesh-eating bacterial infection following a routine dental procedure.
Benjamin LaMontagne was a budding musician with plans to attend Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania after he graduated from Cheverus High School this year. Results from testing done after his death reveal that LaMontagne died of cervical necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria.
Two days prior to LaMontagne’s death, the high school student had four wisdom teeth removed, but later that day, his jaw became swollen and the swelling spread to his eye. On February 22, LaMontagne was too weak to get himself to the bathroom, and after his mother helped him and left, she was shocked when she walked back into the room to find him unresponsive. LaMontagne was pronounced dead at the home when emergency responders arrived.
Dr. Thomas Dodson, professor and director of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Washington, says that it is extremely rare for a person to get an infection from routine dental surgery and even more rare for them to die.
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“It’s usually like a two- to four-week slog,” said Dodson to the Portland Press Herald of the normal process for an infection like LaMontagne’s. “Usually, they’re in the [intensive care unit] for most of that time, they’re going back to the operating room many times [to have dead tissue removed]. I think the pond is a lot deeper here than it looks. To have someone have that happen to them at home and die, it’s very peculiar.”
LaMontagne’s music teacher Julia Frothingham, expressed her sadness at the teen’s death.
“I know he’s not my son, but I feel like I watched him grow up,” said Frothingha. “I’ll miss not being able to see where he goes from here.”
The dentist who performed the wisdom teeth removal on LaMontagne is not being blamed for the teen’s death.