24-year-old Cincinnati man dies of toothache

The World

A 24-year-old Cincinnati man died from a tooth infection on Wednesday, doctors at University Hospital in Cincinnati said.

Family members told NBC affiliate WLWT that one of Kyle Willis' wisdom teeth began bothering him two weeks ago. Dentist told him the tooth needed to be pulled, but Willis decided against it because he was unemployed and had no insurance.

When Willis began getting headaches and his face swelled, so he went to the emergency room.

"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," Collins' aunt, Patti Collins, told WLWT.

The pain medication did its trick, but the infection kept spreading, and eventually attacked Willis' brain, doctors said.

"He should have gone to the dentist to take care of the toothache, and it wouldn't have escalated to this. It's a lesson learned by all," Patti Collins said.

"People don't realize that dental disease can cause serious illness," Dr. 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."

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported that 33 percent of people surveyed skipped the dentist because they can't afford it, ABC New reports. A 2003 report by the U.S. Surgeon General said 108 million Americans had no dental insurance.

"When people are unemployed or don't have insurance, where do they go? What do they do?" Silverstein said. "People end up dying, and these are the most treatable, preventable diseases in the world."

Kyle Willis, the nephew of famed musician Bootsy Collins, leaves behind a 6-year-old daughter.