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Kansas mother seeks answers after 3-year-old son dies following routine dental procedure

"He’s in a better place," the boy's mother said. "He was just so young, and we loved him a lot."

A mother in Kansas is searching for answers after her 3-year-old son died following a routine dental procedure last Tuesday.

Abiel Valenzuela Zapata needed to get his teeth pulled at Tiny Teeth Pediatric Dentistry in Wichita after a gum infection, his mother, Nancy Valenzuela, told NBC affiliate KSNW.

3-year-old Abiel Valenzuela Zapata, who died after a dental procedure in Wichita, Kan.
3-year-old Abiel Valenzuela Zapata, who died after a dental procedure in Wichita, Kan.Courtesy / Nancy Valenzuela

Valenzuela, a mother of three from Scott City, said Abiel was fine before the surgery and thought it would be a simple procedure.

“We didn’t expect to come out of there without a child,” she told the station.

About 30 minutes after being placed under anesthesia, Abiel's "right cheek swelled up" and his heart rate slowed down, according to a police report obtained by KSNW. He was subsequently given a substance "to try to increase his heart rate when his pulse stopped and they started CPR."

Officers responded to a call of an unresponsive boy at a building on the 3900 block of North Maize Road, Wichita police said. The 3-year-old patient was taken to a hospital, where he later died.

"It is believed that the child had an unanticipated reaction to medicine provided during the course of his dental procedures," police said in a statement.

According to the police report, the doctor who performed the dental procedure said he had never seen anything like this in his career, particularly for someone without any known allergies.

Authorities said currently there is no criminal investigation happening.

Valenzuela did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

In statement to NBC News, Mark Maloney, an attorney for Tiny Teeth Pediatric Dentistry, extended his condolences to the family.

"Tiny Teeth Pediatric Dentistry is devastated by the death of Abiel Valenzuela Zapata. We are praying for the family during this time and ask for the community to do so, as well. Like Abiel's family, we, too, want to understand how this tragic event may have occurred," the attorney said.

"Our practice has never experienced an incident like this, and we had no reason to expect this procedure would be anything other than routine," he said. "We would like to thank the EMS first responders who arrived only a few minutes after we called 911. They continued the CPR efforts we had begun and worked feverishly to save Abiel."

Valenzuela told KSNW that she was unsure what happened during the surgery but said she would continue investigating and wait to see the coroner's report.

"'I couldn’t do anything for you, but I will investigate.' It’s what I told him. It’s the only thing I can do and bring awareness," she said. "He’s in a better place. He was just so young, and we loved him a lot."