Death From Wisdom Teeth Removal
The information presented on this site is of personal opinion and consequently is slanted and biased and not based on proper scientific research. The information presented is NOT written by a dental expert. Further the information presented has NOT been subjected to peer review by experts to verify accuracy and data integrity.
Below you will find cases of death which occurred as a result of having at least 1 wisdom tooth removed. The majority of these cases occured in a dental office or other outpatient setting. Some of the described case reports in some of the studies do not always explicity mention which specific tooth or teeth was/were extracted during the procedure that ultimately lead to death. Thus it is not always clear if a wisdom tooth was being extracted or not. The cases presented below do not include any ambiguous case reports. [36, 45, 47, 49, 50, 51] Refer to the dental deaths page for cases of other dental deaths occuring which are not included below and not clearly from a wisdom tooth extraction.
This website's owner's calculations based on literature is roughly 1 death occurs in every 400,000 cases where anesthesia is used in dental offices. [36, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 89] See the mortality rates in dentistry page for a description of how this number was arrived at.
A 74 year old man died 7 days after having a mandibular wisdom tooth extracted in Japan. His cause of death was asphyxia resulting from airway obstruction that was caused by both deviation of the epiglottis and compression of the trachea due to cervical subcutaneous bleeding that resulted from postextraction bleeding. It is not clear when this occured. 
A 24 year old man died 3 days after having wisdom teeth removed in March 2013. He was given propofol as 1 of several sedatives and found to have 2 pieces of gauze in his airway. 
A 19 year old man died several days after having wisdom teeth removed in December 2011. 
A 14 year old boy died less than 24 hours after having wisdom teeth removed in December 2011. 
A 16 year old girl went into cardiac arrest while having wisdom teeth extracted in May 2011. She was taken to a hospital, put on life support, and died 2 days later. She had been born with a heart malformation which required 2 surgeries prior to her first birthday. 
A 17 year old female, went into cardiac arrest while having her wisdom teeth extracted in April 2011. Her brain suffered oxygen deprivation for roughly 6 to 10 minutes leading to severe brain damage. She was taken to a hospital, left in a coma, and died 10 days later in April 2011. 
A 23 year old male had a wisdom tooth extracted in November 2010. He developed an infection that damaged the values in his heart and had subsequent surgery. He later was declared brain dead and died in January 2011. 
A 36 year old died in September 2009 two days after having 2 wisdom teeth removed. She suffered a reaction to the pain medication codeine .
A 21 year old female, died for reasons not clear two days after having her wisdom teeth removed in March 2009. 
A 20 year old male died in January 2008, while having his four wisdom teeth removed. He began to have trouble breathing after having 3 of his 4 wisdom teeth extracted and the surgeon used a technique known as intubation in which he inserted a tube through his mouth into his trachea and pumped air by squeezing a bag. This technique was not successful and he was taken to an emegency room by paramedics but they were unable to revive him. The cause of death is not entirely clear but could be due to an adverse reaction to the anesthesia given. 
A 25 yaer old male died from an aggressive bacterial infection specifically sepsis and necrotizing fasciitis, which is known as flesh-eating disease, three days after having his wisdom teeth removed in October 2007. 
An 18 year old male died from the general anesthesia while having three wisdom teeth removed in July 2007. 
A 17 year old male suffered cardiac and respiratory distress which led to a heart attack while having his four wisdom teeth pulled out in December 2005. 
A 21 year old male suffered severe laryngeal edema, facial swelling, and later, an obstructed airway the morning after having his four wisdom teeth extracted. He developed difficulty breathing which caused suffocation and death in August 2005. He had a known immume disorder (hereditary angioedema due to C1 inhibitor deficiency) which put him at risk for facial swelling and life threatening laryngeal edema after the extractions. The oral surgeon did not provide him with the necessary prophylactic therapy to prevent a fatal angioedemic attack. [25, 44]
A 59 year old male bled to death while having an infected wisdom tooth removed in December 2004. 
A 41 year old male prison inmate suffered swelling in his neck while having a wisdom tooth removed. This led to difficulting breathing which led to heart failure and death in June 2004. 
A 20 something year old male died at home three days after having wisdom teeth removed for reasons not clear. This occured in December 2003. 
A 16 year old male died for reasons not entirely clear sometime after taking his prescribed painkillers and going to sleep the night after having his wisdom teeth removed in September 2003. 
A 77 year old man with history of 3-vessel coronary artery disease had a lower left wisdom tooth removed and an infected pericoronal cyst removed while under general anesthesia. The morning after surgery he had chest pain and radiation of discomfort to his arms. He had a stent implanted because of subtotal stenosis from his former bypasses. Twelve days after surgery he collapsed due to a vertigo attack. Twenty four days after surgery he died of an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) due to secondary thrombosis of the stents. This occured sometime between January 1, 2003, and June 30, 2006. 
A 23 year old women, died from respiratory failure due to the combination of the three drugs used during the oral surgery to remove her wisdom teeth in December 2002. 
A 43 year old women died from trouble breathing while under sedation while having her wisdom teeth taken out in February 2002.. Her family received a 6 figure out of court settlement. 
A 31 year old female died after surgery to remove her wisdom teeth in September 2000, for reasons not entirely clear. 
A 57 year old male with history of insulin-depedent diabetes mellitus had his upper right first molar, upper left second molar, and upper left third molar (wisdom tooth) extracted. Seven days later he died from rhinocerebral mucormycosis and cavernous sinus thrombosis. This occured in the early 2000's. 
A 26 year odl female had problem wisdom teeth which were causing her neck to swell removed in March 1999. She took 3g of paracetamol (acetaminophen) the first day after extractions, and continued to take 4g per day. She developed acute liver failure and later collapsed and was taken to a hospital. She had an emergency liver transplant which caused an infection which lead to multiple organ failure and then her death. 
A 22 year old femlae was left brain dead as a result of being anaesthetised to have her wisdom teeth extracted. She was taken off life support two days after the operation in March 1999. 
A 17 year old female died after having her wisdom teeth removed in February 1997. It was suspected she died of cerebral hemorrhage in which a weak blood vessel in her brain filled up with blood over time which was unrelated to the surgery, anesthetic, or the diabetes she had. However, it ruptured due to the stressful event of having wisdom teeth removed. 
An 18 year old male suffocated on a surgical spone during the surgery to extract his wisdom teeth. He went into respiratory arrest and suffered irrevsible brain damage. He died in August 1996. 
A 25 year old female died after having four wisdom teeth removed in January 1996. She became ill after having been given anesthesia and later died in a hospital. 
A 25 year old man was given diazepam, fentanyl, methohexital, lidocaine 2% with epinephrine 1:100,000 in preparation for removal of his impacted wisdom teeth and responded to these injections. He then was given Brevital and became ashen and his blood pressure dropped. Treatment was attempted but the patient had a ventricular fibrillation. He then suffered several more episodes of ventricular fibrilation over 24 to 36 hours after surgery and died. This occured sometime between January 1, 1995 to December 31, 1999. 
A 53 year old female, had a lower wisdom tooth extracted and developed pain, swelling, severe throat, and trismus. She was given intravenous antibiotics and surgical drainage and later had a CT scan performed. Her symptoms did not improve and the CT scan showed abundant gas in the soft tissue of her neck. Her conditions later deteriorated and she died of multi-organ failure 19 days after the extraction. This appeared to occur in the late 1990s. 
A 22 year old man suffered cardiac arrest causing his brain to be denied oxygen for up to 15 minutes while having impacted wisdom teeth removed. He went into a coma and remained in a persistive vegetative state. He died 5 years laters in December 1995, when permission was granted to stop his food and water 
A 14 year old female died one day after having her wisdom teeth extracted in November, 1994. She had a heart ailment called asymptomatic resolving myocarditis that was not known prior to surgery which was the likely reason for causing death. [42, 53]
A 27 year old male suffered massive brain damage while under anesthesia to remove his wisdom teeth. He was put on a ventilator, declared brain dead, and died after the ventilator was switched off after 8 days. This occured in April 1993. [37, 83]
A 17 year old female died after having a Duragesic patch containing the drug fentanyl on his upper arm during the removal of all four wisdom teeth in January 1993. The patch released five times the maximum doseage of Fentanyl. 
A 38 year old female died from a drug overdose while having her wisdom teeth removed in May 1992. She was given Percodan three days before the appointment, and ntirous oxide (laughing gas) and intravenous Valium and Demoral while undergoing the procedure. 
An 18 year old female, suffered a bronchia spasm while under anestheia during the removal of four wisdom teeth. She died four days later in February 1992. 
A 20 year old male died from an asthmatic attack under anesthesia while having his wisdom teeth removed in February 1992. He suffered rapid anoxia (low oxygen) due to laryngeal edema (swelling) and asthma. [16, 47]
A 24 year old woman died 8 hours after extraction of wisdom teeth in the early 1990's due to disseminated intravascular coagulation which likely was a result of Shwartzman reaction to the local trauma of extracting the wisdom teeth. 
A 22 year old college football player had elective surgery to remove his 4 wisdom teeth in the early 1990's. He went to the emergency room 48 hours after the extractions with swelling in his throat, mouth, face, and neck. He was diagnosed with Ludwig's angina and a parapharngeal abscess. His condition deteriorated as treatment was attempted and developed cervical fasciitis and periesophagitis, descending necrotizing mediastinitis, and bilateral empyema with pneumonia. He suffered multi-organ system failure and died 17 days after having his wisdom teeth removed. 
A 25 year old female, died of an infection one day after the removal of all four wisdom teeth in December, 1989. 
A 25 year old male died two days after he was mistakenly given an overdose of lidocaine while having his wisdom teeth removed, in August, 1988. 
A 19 year old male died after he was given general anesthesia while having his wisdom teeth removed in February 1988. 
A 71 year old man had an impacted wisdom tooth removed and ended up in the emergency room due to swelling in the floor of his mouth about 8 hours later. He suffered a postextraction hemorrhage and died from asphyxia caused by airway obstruction. The entrance into his larynx (voice box) was very swollen and narrowed by hematoma and edema. It is also noted that roughly 40 days earlier he had 11 teeth with cavities removed in preparation for a full set of dentures. The 1 wisdom tooth extraction was the final treatment before dentures were to be placed. This likely occured sometime in the late 1980's or early 1990's. 
A 27 year old female suffered cardiac arrest and respiratory arrest under anesthesia while undergoing surgery to extract his wisdom teeth. She went into a coma and died in September, 1986. 
A 25 year old female received atropine, valium, and brietal and nitrous oxide while having all four wisdom teeth and the upper right canine extracted. Five minutes into surgery his face turned blue, became unconscious, suffered brain damage, and died 6 days later in a hospital. This occured in April 1986. [70, 84]
A 26 year old male, a U.S. marine, suffered cardiac arrest and respiratory failure in August 1985, 2 weeks after having a wisdom tooth removed by a Navy dentist in July 1985. 
Libby Zion, 18, had an infected wisdom tooth pulled in March 1984. She was taken to New York Hospital with a 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit fever the following day. Her condition later detoriated as her temperature soared to 108 degrees Fahrenheit and her heart stopped. A grand jury in New York in 1987 stated that Libby "might have survived if she had received the experienced and professional medical care that should be routinely experienced.''  There seems to be a lot more to this case than a wisdom tooth infection see the Libby Zion law on Wikipedia.
A 17 year old male, stopped breathing and went into respiratory arrest while under anesthesia to have an impacted wisdom tooth removed. He did suffer from allergies and asthma. This occured in April 1984. 
A 13 year old female went into a coma shortly after her four wisdom teeth were extracted. She had swollen tonssils at the time of the surgery and also had eight teeth filled and a tooth crowned. She then died 11 days lafter in February, 1983. She was anesthetized with 11 drugs and given four times the maximum allowable dosage of one of the drugs. She was under the care of the same dentist as the 2 cases below. [3, 76]
A 31 year old female, died two days after going into cardiac arrest while having her problem wisdom teeth removed in February, 1983. She had been suffering form periodontitis, bone loss, and abscess formation around many of her teeth and had had a pituitary tumor removed 9 months prior. She was given 9 anesthetic drugs in lethal dose during the procedure and was under the care of the same dentist as the case above and below. [5, 76]
A 24 year old female died in the dentist chair in September, 1982 while having her wisdom teeth extracted. She suffered from lupus, total kidney failure, high blood pressure, anenmia, a heart murmur, and chronic seizure disorder and refused to have any work done unless she was asleep even though it was recommended she had local anesthesia. She was given 9 anesthetic drugs during the operation, went into respiratory collapse, and died at arrival of a hospital. The general anesthesia she was given resulted in critical cardiac arrest with her lupus being a contributing factor. She was under the care of the same dentist as the 2 cases above. [4, 76]
The dentist involved wtih the care of the three cases above was granted parole in July 2010 after serving more than 25 years in prison. However, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger denied his parole in December 2010. [41, 59, 60]
A 22 year old female suffered cardiac arrest shortly after having all four wisdom teeth removed. She went into a coma and was kept alive on life support. She was declared brain dead. Her family agreed to have her disconnected from life support and she died in September, 1981. 
An 18 year old male had 4 wisdom teeth removed in June 1981, suffered cardiac arrest, and went into a coma. He was given valium, sublimaze, and xylocaine. He had his life support removed 10 days later and died in July 1981. He did fail to tell his oral surgeon he was taking predisone which was a steriod prescribed for his acne [57, 58, 82]
A 17 year old female had her oxygen supply interrupted while having her wisdom teeth pulled. During the surgery the tube that supplied oxygen was either improperly inserted or become dislodged. She went into a coma and died a week later in June 1981. 
A 23 year old female suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest under anesthesia while having her wisdom teeth removed. She went into a coma and was kept alive on life support. She was declared brain dead. Her family agreed to have her life support removed and then she died in March, 1981. Her husband committed suicide a little over two years later. [1, 2]
A 22 year old woman, who last had an asthmatic attack at least 1 or 2 years prior to surgery to remove her wisdom teeth, complained of pain in her left wisdom tooth for at least a year and was diagnosed with pericoronitis. She went to the emergency room 4 days after the wisdom teeth extractions with pain in the left maxilla and submandibular regions, a temperature of 99.8 degrees Fahrenheit and had drainage from her left nostril for the past 3 days. A radiological exam showed sinusitis in the left maxillary sinus. She died 31 days later surgery of bilateral cavernous sinus thrombosis, left sigmoid sinus thrombosis, subacute leptomeningitis, and diffuse encephalomalacia. This occured in the early 1980's; however, it is noted that she was noncompliant with appointments and medications initially. 
A 20 year old woman died in January 1978, after going into cardiac arrest and being taken off life support after having three impacted wisdom teeth removed. However, she failed to tell the surgeon she had had an abortion 5 days earlier and was still bleeding from it. 
An 18 year old woman died in April 1977, after having been oversedated while having her wisdom teeth removed. 
A woman had four wisdom teeth removed in December 1976. Upon completion of the extraction the dentist adjusted his oxygen and nitrous oxide machine to administer 100% oxygen. In fact the lines had been switched and instead 100% nitrous oxide was adminstered leading to the woman's death. 
A man named 27 year old man suffered cardiac arrest after having general anesthetia to remove his wisdom teeth. This seemed to have occured sometime in the late 1970's. 
A 17 year old man died while having his four wisdom teeth extracted in December, 1971. His cause of death was likely due to lack of oxygen while anesthesia was being administered. 
An 18 year old male died of cardiac arrest while under anesthesia to remove two impacted wisdom teeth. The surgery was performed in a hospital under the care of an anesthesiologist; however, he said in court he didn't know he was asthmatic. The man's mother said she had told the anesthesiologist before the extractions. The oral surgeon had failed to note his asthma on his medical chart. It is believed the man suffered an asthmatic reaction while under the anesthetic Innovar and consequently had a bronchial spassm which restricted his intake of oxygen. [35, 78]
A woman died of cardiac arrest after having been given general anesthesia to have wisdom teeth removed likely sometime in the late 1960's or 1970. 
A 56 year old woman had 2 lower impacted wisdom teeth removed. She was given 100 mg methohexitone, trichloroethylene, nitrous oxide, and oxygen. She began to stop breathing and died. She likely died due to a cerebral ischaemic episode. This occured sometime in 1963 to 1968. 
A 65 year old man had a upper right wisdom tooth extracted while under .5 ml of 2% lidocaine with 1:80,000 epinephrine. During the procedure he began to feel faint and became unresponsive and pale. He later lost conciousness and died of pulmonary edema and severe coronary atherosclerosis with muscle scaring. His cause of death was most likely due to an arrhythmia that developed. This occured sometime in 1963 to 1968. 
A 42 year old woman had a wisdom tooth removed while under general anesthesia. She was given 70 mg methohexitone, 100 mg succinylcholine, oxygen, and nitrous oxide. During the surgery her respiration became shallow, her pulse faint, and her face appeared gray. She suffered cardiac arrest and her brain did not receive enough oxygen. Due to this she developed severe brain damage, went into a coma, and died 4 months later. This occured sometime in 1963 to 1968. 
A 27 year old male who had problem wisdom teeth causing recurrent pain and gum infections removed (all four). Several days later his jaw became swollen and he had trouble swallowing. Over the course of the next few days he saw 3 different oral surgeons. Five days later he ended went to the emergency room with chest pains, breathing problems, a high pitched squeky voice, a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. He was admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) but continued to have bleeding, dense pneuomnia, and heart arrythmias. He had Ludwig's angina and died roughly 1 week after the extractions. 
Thus at least 68 people are known to have died directly from having their wisdom teeth removed. It does not take into account all the emotional pain and suffering caused to all family members in all cases.
Note that in a few of these cases there was pathology as in disease such as pericoronitis present. This can certainly be a contributor and it is not always clear if the wisdom tooth or teeth were being removed for preventative purposes or due to demonstrable need due to disease present.
For those interested in statistics the mean of the ages (appoximate) above (of those known by this website's owner) is 27.985 with a 95% confidence interval (24.191, 31.778). The standard deviation is 15.31 with a 95% confidence interval (13.056, 18.512). 1st Quartile (Q1) is 18, the median is 23 with 95% confidence interval (21, 25), and 3rd Quartile (Q3) is 27.
Using data for the approximate year of the deaths and number of deaths occuring in that year from 1970 to today (with some approximations when the year is not exactly clear) a goodness-of-fit test for the Poisson distribution yielded a p value << 0.001 hence we reject that the number of deaths occuring each year follows a Poisson distribution. Nonetheless this may suffer from the fact that a chi-square test may not be valid when a category (in this case a death) is less than 5 which it is in this case. However, we know that relatively rare events occuring randomly in a large population can be resonably modeled as a Poisson process. A one-sample Poisson rate produces a rate of death per year from wisdom teeth removal of 1.38813. 
Below shows a boxplot and dotplot for the age at death from wisdom teeth removal for the cases described above. Also shown is a time series plot for the approximate deaths occuring from wisdom teeth removal in each year since 1970. All statistics and figures are generated with Minitab 16 and IBM SPSS Statistics 19.
Not included above due to lengthy time period between wisdom teeth extraction and later death.
A 39 year old woman suffered severe liver damage after having wisdom teeth removed. She then died roughly 5 years later from sepsis and pneumonia. 
Three additional cases where a patient acquired AIDS while having wisdom teeth removed as discussed on the complications page.
Note that the owner of this website does not like having this page. His heart goes out to all the families. Do not interpret the statistics and graphs above to really mean much of anything as they may not be representative of the population at large.
Updated November 9, 2013
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