Leland oral surgeon suspended by Dental Board, under investigation by SBI for drug misuse

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LELAND, NC (WWAY) — Mark Austin, an oral surgeon in Leland, has had his license suspended following an investigation by the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners.

According to consent orders found on the Dental Board’s website under Recent Disciplinary Actions, the investigation began after a patient died following a dental procedure at Austin’s office.

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According to one of the orders, a patient identified as H.P. visited Austin’s office on July 30, 2020 for placement of a dental implant. Austin administered sedative agents to H.P. prior to and during the procedure. Towards the end of the procedure, H.P.’s oxygen saturation levels dropped significantly.

The order goes on to state that Austin attempted ventilation, an unsuccessful effort to place an endotracheal tube, and contacted 911.

Patient H.P. was transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) and placed in the intensive care unit, but died on August 3, 2020.

August 3, 2020 is the same day well-known NHRMC cardiologist Dr. Henry Patel died from complications during a dental procedure.

This is also the same day the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) began an investigation of Austin regarding allegations of misuse of pharmaceutical drugs. The SBI has not confirmed if this investigation was related to Patel’s death.

On January 4, 2021, the State Dental Board restricted Austin’s general anesthesia permit. Since then, he has only been allowed to administer general anesthesia utilizing the services of either a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist or another provider authorized to administer general anesthesia without supervision.

On May 6, 2021, the Dental Board issued another consent order suspending Austin’s dental license. That order alleges that Austin prescribed controlled substances for his staff members, including those outside the scope of practicing dentistry, such as narcotic cough suppressants and sedative-hypnotic medications.

The order also states that during an audit by the Drug Enforcement Agency earlier this year, Austin was unable to account for substances that were supposed to be maintained at his office, including Fentanyl.

The order alleges that Austin took substances including Fentanyl from his office and used them personally in 2019 and 2020.

Austin can submit a written request for a hearing, which would be scheduled no later than December 2021.

Regarding the SBI investigation, a spokesperson says no other details are available at this time.

WWAY called Austin Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery and spoke to a receptionist. She said she was not authorized to comment and had nothing else to say on the matter.

WWAY also emailed Austin’s office for comment, but have not yet received a response.