9 Investigates

9 Investigates teenager's death after routine dental procedure

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — Christopher Power, 17, went to have his wisdom teeth removed late last month, and ended up dead.

The routine procedure is done every day, and the chances of something going wrong are slim.

His mother, Alison Power, was in the waiting room reading a book, when the staff at the dental office came up to tell her Power wouldn’t wake up.

“I couldn't do anything and I just want God to step in and do something,” said Power.

Watch: Parents' emotional interview

The Kissimmee teenager was rushed to Osceola Regional Medical Center and later to Nemours Children’s Hospital; he was in a coma for two days before he was pronounced dead.

Dr. Stanley Lane is a board-certified oral surgeon and one of the attorneys now representing the Power family.

“He had less than the normal amount of air. It must have gone on from somewhere between three and four minutes,” said Dr. Lane.

Those allegations and others are laid out in a notice of intent to sue. The family's attorneys allege doctors “failed to provide adequate airway management to Christopher, while under sedation." As a result, they claim, he suffered a "catastrophic brain injury."

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Power’s father was at work when he got the news about his son.

“I bend down on my knees because I was so shocked,” Michael Power said.

Christopher Power had the procedure done at Kissimmee Family Dentistry, founded by veteran dentist, Dr. Michael Turner. But the dentist who performed the surgery, Dr. Steven Baxter, does not work there full-time.

“That's the risk, that he's not in a confined area such as an oral surgery office,” Dr. Lane said.

9 Investigates was told he travels among several offices throughout Central Florida.

“That's the risk, that he's not in a confined area such as an oral surgery office,” Dr. Lane said.

Another attorney representing the Power family, Mark Glassman, added, “The bigger picture is about anesthesia being administered by dentists.”

9 Investigates reviewed the teen’s medical records with the help of oral surgeons and dentists.

Power was given 10 milligrams of Midazolam, or Versed, and 50 milligrams of Demerol to put him under conscious sedation.

9 Investigates asked one of the doctors, specifically, about this regiment. He told us Demerol is no longer commonly used in these procedures because it suppresses the patient’s respiratory rate much faster than other drugs. In the teen’s case, the dentists’ notes obtained by 9 Investigates showed they tried to reverse the sedation by administering three different drugs, then a defibrillator was used and finally emergency paramedics were called.

“I was sitting waiting, just waiting for him to come out, and he never came out,” Alison Power said.

Dr. Baxter has been licensed in Florida since 1995, and qualified by the state to perform sedation. It's unclear where, as a general dentist, he got sedation training. But his license application for the state shows he participated in an oral surgery residency for three years at the University of Michigan. It’s unclear if that residency was completed.

“Perhaps the Legislature should look into the issue of whether conscious sedation should be provided in a dental office, versus an oral surgeon center, or at least up the regulations,” said Glassman, the Power family attorney.

There is a difference between the training for oral surgeons versus general dentists. Both complete dental school. Dentists complete an exam to practice in a certain area. In Florida, they can perform conscious sedation, with a supplemental certification that can be done attending a few weekend courses. Oral surgeons, meanwhile, go through four to six years of surgical residency.

“Under normal circumstances, a general dentist sends the patient to an oral surgeon. An oral surgeon in a fully equipped facility has had training for six months in a hospital, putting people to sleep,” Dr. Lane said.

An attorney representing Dr. Turner and Kissimmee Family Dentistry provided the following statement: “We are investigating but right now due to privacy issues we simply can't comment further.”

The attorney representing Dr. Baxter  provided the following statement, which reads in part: “Dr. Baxter and I are unable to discuss Dr. Baxter’s treatment of Christopher Power…because of Federal and State laws prohibiting the disclosure of personal health information, and because of Christopher’s family’s pending civil litigation.”

State Department of Health records show there have been four other dental-related deaths in the state since 2009, three during extractions.

It appears at least two of those patients had previous, underlying health issues. Christopher Power’s family believes he was a healthy teenager, and they do not believe he had any previous health issues that they were aware of. The medical examiner said it could take 60 to 90 days to get results of the autopsy, which will determine the official cause of death.

Contact Daralene Jones for more on this story.