Can You Sue a Dentist for Injuring You?
The answer is yes, you can sue a dentist for dental malpractice, which some people call dental negligence. Dental malpractice is a type of medical malpractice, and thus the laws for medical malpractice typically apply to dental malpractice lawsuits.
How Do You Prove Dental Malpractice?
The key question about liability in a dental malpractice lawsuit is whether the dentist breached the standard of care. If your dentist breaches the standard of care, you may have a viable dental malpractice claim. The standard of care in dentistry is basically a legal measuring stick; it’s a line in the sand or a prescribed boundary of acceptable conduct. The way we establish the standard of care is typically through the testimony of an expert witness who is qualified to opine as to what a similarly situated or similarly skilled dentist would have done under similar circumstances.
Reasons for Suing a Dentist
There are many ways a dentist could injure a patient, and thus there are many reasons someone may file a dental malpractice lawsuit. However, some reasons for filing a dental malpractice lawsuit are much more common than others. Here are some of the more common reasons to sue a dentist:
Failure To Diagnose Oral Cancer
When a dentist fails to recognize oral cancer after examining a patient, the result can be disastrous. Cancer must be stopped at the earliest possible opportunity, and it’s the dentist’s job to recognize the cancer and quickly refer the patient to the proper specialist. Unfortunately, negligent dentists fail to recognize cancer every year, and the patient and the patient’s family suffer as a result.
Failure To Diagnose Periodontal Disease
This is a common cause of dental malpractice lawsuits. The dentist’s job is to assess, evaluate, and treat periodontal disease to minimize damage to the patient. Alternatively, the dentist should recognize the periodontal disease and refer the patient to a periodontist right away. When a patient’s periodontal disease is left untreated, the patient may lose teeth, bone, and gum tissue.
Failure To Obtain Informed Consent
The definition of battery is the touching of another in a harmful or offensive manner and without consent. Clearly, if you play soccer or football, you’ve consented to some bumps with other players. However, you did not consent to being stabbed with a knife. In the same way, you may go to the dentist, sign a consent form, and the dentist has your consent to work within the scope of your consent. However, the dentist does not have your consent to perform a procedure on the wrong tooth or to perform a procedure you didn’t authorize. The critical point here is that the dentist must inform the patient of the nature of the procedure; the risks of the procedure; and the reasonable alternatives to the procedure.
Pulling The Wrong Tooth
When a dentist pulls the wrong tooth, it can only be because the dentist was careless. There is no excuse for pulling the wrong tooth. Not only does the patient lose a perfectly good tooth, but the patient is sometimes sent home with the unhealthy tooth still in their mouth. This can lead to infection, bone loss, and other complications. Overall, when a dentist pulls the wrong tooth, the injured person has a strong argument for dental malpractice.
Performing A Procedure On The Wrong Tooth
In the same way that pulling the wrong tooth is egregious, it is just as egregious when a dentist performed a procedure on the wrong tooth. This type of behavior is absolutely unreasonable, and it’s a clear violation of the standard of care in dentistry. Dentists often perform root canals on the wrong tooth or place crowns on the wrong tooth. However, sometimes dentists or specialists will perform a surgery on the wrong tooth or place an implant in the wrong location. These are the most obvious types of dental malpractice.
Failed Dental Implant
Dental implant procedures are surgical in nature, and they require training and education to perform properly. When a dental implant procedure is done properly, the result can be great. However, when a dental implant procedure goes wrong, the patient can suffer tremendously. Sometimes, a botched dental implant procedure can lead to serious infections, implants migrating into the sinus, or even permanent nerve damage.
Broken Or Fractured Jaw From Tooth Extraction
During the extraction of molars or wisdom teeth, dentists will sometimes apply enough force to break the patient’s jaw. When this happens, the dentist needs to recognize it right away and get the patient help. However, sometimes, the dentist will send the patient home with a broken jaw, and the patient can develop a serious infection that spreads into the bone. This is called “osteomyelitis,” and it can be extremely serious. In some cases, a patient with osteomyelitis could die. Other times, the patient will lose a tremendous amount of the jaw bone and require multiple reconstructive surgeries. These are some of the more serious types of dental malpractice cases.
Perforation Of The Sinus During An Extraction, Root Canal, Or Dental Implant Procedure
When a dentist is working on teeth in the upper jaw, the sinus is never far away. Sometimes, the dentist may puncture the sinus. As a result, the patient will have serious recurring sinus infections or bleeding. In more serious cases, the dentist may create a hole in the sinus so large that the patient will experience food coming out of his or her nose during a meal. The dentist should recognize the hole in the sinus, sometimes called an “oro-antral fistula,” at the earliest opportunity and refer the patient to a specialist to get the issue fixed before it gets any worse.
Improper Use Of Mini Dental Implants
Mini dental implants are meant to be used as a temporary solution, with certain exceptions. These types of implants are very thin, less than 3mm in thickness, and they do not integrate into the bone like a traditional implant. Therefore, they can come lose and migrate. If placed in the upper jaw, mini dental implants can migrate up into the patient’s sinus and cause tremendous problems. Other times, if placed in the lower jaw, mini dental implants can migrate into the inferior alveolar nerve and cause permanent nerve damage.
Root Canal Injuries
Root canal procedures are already painful enough without adding dental malpractice to the equation. Root canals may be the most feared procedure on the planet. Unfortunately, that fear may be justified not only because root canals hurt, but also because bad things can happen during a root canal procedure. For example, if the dentist drills through the end of the root, the dentist can cause permanent nerve damage. Additionally, the dentist may break a root canal file in the patient’s canal, which can cause extreme pain if the file is not removed right away. Other times, the dentist may drill out the side of the tooth into the patient’s bone, causing excruciating pain and the loss of the tooth.
There are many ways a person could suffer nerve damage as a result of a dental procedure. As we mentioned above, the patient may suffer nerve damage as a result of a root canal procedure or a dental implant procedure. The patient may also suffer permanent nerve damage as a result of an injection of anesthetic. If a dentist damages a patient’s nerve, the dentist must assess and evaluate the patient’s nerve damage and, if necessary, refer the patient to a nerve specialist. When left untreated, nerve damage can become permanent. However, when treated early and properly, the patient may make a full recovery. Therefore, it’s critical that the dentist recognize nerve damage and take steps to mitigate the damage as soon as possible.
Complications From Anesthesia.
Some procedures are so serious and so painful that it’s best for the patient to be under anesthesia. When a patient is under anesthesia, the patient is at the mercy of the dentist and the assistants. If the anesthesia isn’t properly monitored, the patient could die or suffer serious brain damage. In the worst cases, the patient may die while under anesthesia.
Contact Us to Get Your FREE Legal Consultation with a Dental Malpractice Lawyer
If you’ve experienced any of these issues as a result of dental treatment or if you otherwise believe you may have been the victim of dental malpractice, contact us right away to set up your free legal consultation. You can also call our Orlando, Florida personal injury law firm at (321) 352-7588 to set up your free legal consultation.
If you need a South Carolina dental malpractice lawyer, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (843) 638-6590. We have at least one lawyer licensed in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
At our firm, attorneys do the consultations, not some customer service representative or assistant. Therefore, when you schedule a consultation with us, you know you’re going to get to speak to an experienced dental malpractice lawyer.