Dental procedures can be painful, but you shouldn’t have pain that lingers long after your dental procedure is finished. You also shouldn't have altered sensations that last beyond a few days or so.
If you have pain that won’t go away or you have a change in feeling, sensation, taste, or function after dental work, you may have suffered nerve damage. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that this will get better, and sometimes this dental nerve damage is permanent. As a result, permanent nerve damage caused by dental implants, botched extractions, and root canal overfill are some very common reasons people file a dental malpractice lawsuit.
How a Dentist’s Negligence Can Cause Nerve Damage
Nerve damage isn’t always a sign that a dentist did something wrong. Sometimes, dental work will have side effects that last for a few weeks or even months. However, with nerves, you should be careful and vigilant because nerve damage can become permanent if left untreated or ignored.
If you have nerve damage symptoms that last a while after the anesthesia should have worn off, that could be a sign that something’s not right. Thus, if you are experiencing numbness or other odd sensations, you should consider visiting an oral surgeon or someone who can evaluate your potential nerve damage. Time is of the essence for treating nerve damage; otherwise, it may not get better.
What Dental Procedures Can Lead to Permanent Nerve Damage?
There are several common procedures that are prone to the possibility of damaged nerves. Most of the time, it happens during a tooth extraction process (wisdom teeth or others), a root canal, or a dental implant. Overall, for a dentist to cause serious or permanent nerve damage, the dentist must perform a procedure that involves the dentist working in close proximity to one of the major nerves of the mouth, whether it's the inferior alveolar nerve (lower jaw) or the lingual nerve (floor of the mouth).
How can a dentist damage nerves? The majority of the time, it’s because they drill too deeply into the lower jaw during a dental implant or push too much material through the canal of a lower molar, but it can also happen if they ignore a symptom and don’t recommend further treatment or miss a sign that something is wrong during an examination.
Symptoms of Tooth Nerve Damage
Signs of potential nerve damage from a dentist include:
- No feeling in the treated area of your mouth even after anesthesia has worn off
- A tingling or “pulling” sensation in the treated area
- Stabbing or burning pain
- A lack of taste of things tasting different
- Trouble speaking normally
- Difficulty eating normally
Should any of these symptoms more than a month after your visit, you may have suffered nerve damage, and you may have a case against your dentist.
In terms of a medical malpractice or dental malpractice lawsuit, what matters most is the severity of your symptoms, the long-term prognosis for improvement, and how much these symptoms affect your daily life. Someone with permanent injuries (or at least injuries that won’t improve without treatment) is much more likely to have a valid malpractice claim than someone with pain that will go away with time.
Suing Your Dentist for Causing Nerve Damage
If your dentist did cause nerve damage, you may be able to pursue a claim for your damages. When it comes to actually determining whether or not dental malpractice has occurred and if you can sue, the burden of proof lies with you as the injured patient. You must be able to prove that your injury, pain, and suffering is the direct cause of the dentist’s actions and that the dentist acted outside of an accepted medical standard or that they acted in a way other dentists would not.
It’s also important to be aware of the statute of limitations to file your case. In Florida, you’re required to begin your lawsuit within two (2) years of discovering the injury or within four years of when the malpractice occurred at the latest, depending on when you knew or should have known you had suffered an actionable injury.
The process would generally look like this:
- Establishing a patient-practitioner relationship. You can do this easily with e-mail confirmations of your appointments or receipts. This seems mundane, but it’s actually fairly important as it gives the dentist an implied duty of care, or a legal obligation to help you.
- Establishing a breach of duty. This means you must show the dentist didn’t follow proper protocol. This will probably involve finding an expert with knowledge of the situation who can testify as to what the dentist should or should not have done.
- Establishing an injury. In medical malpractice, an injury must be proven to determine potential compensation. To win your dental malpractice claim, you’ll need to show that you have a nerve injury.
- Establishing the link between your injury and the dentist. It must be proven that the dentist actually caused your injury with their actions. This too will be done by an expert in the area.
- Filing your suit. It’s best to let a legal professional officially submit your suit. An experienced attorney will know what procedures must be followed and can advocate on your behalf throughout the process.