An unemployed Cincinnati man died after a tooth infection spread to his brain. Kyle Willis, a nephew of musician Bootsy Collins, was suffering from a painful toothache for the past two weeks.
His wisdom tooth started hurting two weeks ago, according to NBC affiliate WLWT. When dentists told Willis, father of a six-year-old girl, it needed to be pulled, he decided to forgo the procedure as he had no health insurance and was unemployed.
As he left the toothache untreated, his face started swelling and head began to ache. Then Willis, 26, went to the emergency room and received prescriptions for antibiotics and pain medications, but couldn't afford the $27 antibiotic.
The tooth infection apparently spread to his brain. Willis was violent and delirious when an ambulance brought him to the hospital where he died Tuesday.
I couldn't believe what happened to her nephew Kyle Willis, Patti Collins, wife of the local musician, told News 5. The (doctors) gave him antibiotic and pain medication. But he couldn't afford to pay for the antibiotic, so he chose the pain meds, which was not what he needed.
Doctors had told Willis' family that though the pain had stopped, the infection kept spreading and attacked his brain, causing it to swell.
People don't realize that dental disease can cause serious illness, Irvin Silverstein, a dentist at the University of California at San Diego, told ABC News. The problems are not just cosmetic. Many people die from dental disease.
Trips to the dentist aren't the only expenses hard-up Americans are skipping. Even general health checkups are getting expensive. Getting access to dental care is particularly tough for low-income adults and children, and it's getting tougher as the economy worsens.
There are a number of free dental clinics in operation around the country, where dentists volunteer to provide care to those without health insurance.
But even if Willis had access to a free dental clinic, he still may not have been able to get the care he needed for his infection as one needs to wait for months to get an appointment.
Bootsy Collins, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is best known for his work with soul superstar James Brown and the '70s funk-soul-rock fusion band Parliament-Funkadelic.