A Maine high school student who died in February after undergoing a routine dental procedure was killed by a rare flesh-eating bacteria, the Bangor Daily News reported.
According to a spokesman for the medical examiner’s office, 18-year-old Benjamin LaMontagne, who attended Cheverus High School, contracted necrotizing fasciitis following a procedure to remove his wisdom teeth. Following the operation, he had a lot of swelling, a symptom of the disease. Three days later on February 22, he became extremely weak and dizzy, needing help to crawl to the bathroom.
Later that night, his mother, Lynn, called 911 to report that her son had stopped breathing. Shortly after rescue workers arrived at the family’s home in Long Island, Maine, they pronounced him dead.
Commonly referred to as flesh-eating bacteria, necrotizing fasciitis is a rare but extremely aggressive disease that destroys the fascia – a layer of connective tissue right underneath the skin that surrounds muscles, blood vessels and nerves. The condition can be caused by several types of bacteria, notably group A Streptococcus, when they enter the body through a break in the skin. While these bacteria are normally treated easily, they can sometimes produce toxins that destroy fascia tissue.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that healthy people who practice good hygiene are at a very low risk of contracting the disease. Additionally, such an infection occurring after a dental procedure is considered extremely rare.
“I have not heard of anything like that, with necrotizing fasciitis as a result of routine oral surgery extractions,” Dr. John Molinari, infection control expert for the American Dental Association, told Bangor Daily News.
Molinari noted that dentists and oral surgeons must follow a set of strict protocols in order to limit infection, such as sterilizing gloves and wearing protective gear.
LaMontagne was a very accomplished musician, proficient in clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, English concertina and the penny whistle. He was also a member of the National Honor Society and his high school’s varsity sailing team.