North Carolina dentist has license suspended after patient death, allegations of opioid misuse

The North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners has suspended the license of oral surgeon Mark Austin, DDS, following an investigation spurred by a patient's death.

According to the board's consent orders, a patient identified as H.P. visited Leland, N.C.-based Austin Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery July 30 for placement of a dental implant. Dr. Austin administered sedative agents prior to and during the procedure. Toward the end of the procedure, H.P.'s oxygen saturation levels dropped significantly. The oral surgeon unsuccessfully attempted ventilation and contacted 911.

Patient H.P. was transported to the hospital, but died Aug. 3. This is the same day the State Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation into Dr. Austin regarding allegations of misuse of pharmaceutical drugs.

On Jan. 4, 2021, the state dental board restricted Dr. Austin's general anesthesia permit and on May 6 suspended his dental license. The consent order alleges that Dr. Austin prescribed controlled substances for staff members, including those outside the scope of practicing dentistry, such as narcotic cough suppressants and sedative-hypnotic medications.

During a Drug Enforcement Agency audit, Dr. Austin couldn't account for substances that were supposed to be maintained at his office, including fentanyl, according to the order. Dr. Austin also allegedly took substances such as fentanyl from his office and used them personally in 2019 and 2020.

A receptionist at Austin Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery told local news source WWAY that she was not authorized to comment on the matter.

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