Young father’s unexpected death highlights the dangers of dental infections

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Vadim Anatoliyevich Kondratyuk and his daughters in an undated family photo before his death after complications from a dental infection.

Vadim Anatoliyevich Kondratyuk and his daughters in an undated family photo before his death after complications from a dental infection.

The recent story of a young California husband and father who died after suffering complications from a dental problem serves as a sad reminder of the important ties between oral health and overall health.

Vadim Anatoliyevich Kondratyuk, 26, a long-haul truck driver, was headed east to New York when he started feeling pain in the lower left side of his mouth.

“He pulled over in Oklahoma to see a dentist, who diagnosed an infection and prescribed antibiotics,” recounted health reporter Sammy Caiola in a Jan. 31 Sacramento Bee story.

The pain temporarily subsided, then increased, he told his 22-year-old wife, Nataliya, during several phone calls.

By the time he made his delivery in New York, his mouth had become severely swollen. Feeling too weak to drive back alone, his brother joined him to help him make the long journey home. By the time they reached Utah, Kondratyuk’s breathing had become so labored that his brother took him to a hospital, where Kondratyuk was placed on oxygen, Caiola wrote.

He then was rushed to a larger facility in Salt Lake City, where doctors administered stronger antibiotics and put him on dialysis. By then, the tooth infection had spread to his blood and lungs, according to his wife.

“They had him on medication, they tried everything they could,” said Nataliya Kondratyuk, who traveled to Utah to be at her husband’s bedside. He died on Jan. 30.

Deaths resulting from complications from dental infections are far rarer than they were in the days before antibiotics – but not unheard of.

As Caiola noted in her story for the Bee, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Endodontics examined 61,000 hospitalizations for dental abscesses between 2000 and 2008. The researchers found that 66 of those patients – or roughly one in 1,000 – died.

John Luther, chief dental officer at Western Dental Services in Orange, Calif., urged Bee readers to take toothaches seriously, advising them to visit a dental office as soon as possible when experiencing throbbing dental pain and seek urgent care if a fever or breathing difficulties develop.

Vadim and Nataliya Kondratyuk were born in Ukraine but raised in California. After meeting as teenagers in church, they married in 2012 and were raising two small daughters, Caiola wrote.

His family is struggling with their loss. “He was a great husband,” his wife said. “He had this smile on all the time.”

One thought on “Young father’s unexpected death highlights the dangers of dental infections

  1. Patricia Salber

    Thank you for this story. I think sometimes people forget that the mouth is a part of the body. We go to dentists in a healthcare delivery system completely different from the one that covers the rest of us. And, most of the time, problems related to our teeth are not that big of a deal (cavities, straightening and so forth). But sometimes they are deadly as in this case and in the case of a young child I wrote about last year. Caleb, 6 years old, is the grandson of a good friend. He died from inadequately monitored dental anesthesia for a more or less routine procedure. Here are the details: https://thedoctorweighsin.com/no-child-should-ever-die-from-elective-dental-anesthesia/ After this case and much lobbying by the family and others, the Dental Board of California finally recommended that all children under age 7 have a separate pediatric anesthesiologist when sedation is necessary. Hopefully, the rest of the country will follow suit.

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