The Huffington Post Laura Hibbard First Posted: 09/03/11 01:32 PM ET Updated: 11/03/11 06:12 AM ET
Kyle Willis, a 24-year-old man from Ohio, died on Wednesday from a tooth infection, Cincinati's WLWT reported.
According to the station, Willis' wisdom tooth began hurting two weeks ago, and dentists said it needed to be removed.
Willis, however, was a single father without health insurance, and couldn't afford the procedure.
After developing severe headaches and facial swelling, he went to the emergency room.
Although doctors recommended antibiotics and pain medication, Willis could only afford one.
Patti Collins, Willis's aunt, told WLWT what happened next.
"'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 said. Doctors told Willis' family that while the pain had stopped, the infection kept spreading -- eventually attacking his brain and causing it to swell."
Willis leaves behind a 6-year-old daughter, and family members are hoping to create a fund for her future college education.
Dr. Irvin Silverstein, a dentist at the University of California told ABC news that Willis' story isn't uncommon.
"People don't realize that dental disease can cause serious illness.The problems are not just cosmetic. Many people die from dental disease. 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."
Four years ago, 12-year-old Demonte Drived died after his mother, Alyce, couldn't find a dentist who took Medicaid and bacteria from a tooth abscess spread to his brain.
A Kaiser Family Foundation report found that between 2007 and 2008, the number of uninsured adults rose by 1.5 million.
ABC news added that in April the same foundation also found that 33% of people skipped dental care because they could not afford it.