You can sue a dentist for bad dental work under a theory of dental negligence, which is also called dental malpractice. Dental malpractice is a form of medical malpractice that, you guessed it, is specific to medical malpractice committed during the rendering of dental treatment. Dental malpractice lawsuits are not limited to only dentists. For example, a dental malpractice lawsuit may be brought against not only a dentist but also a dental hygienist, oral surgeon, prosthodontist, endodontist, or anyone else involved in the rendering of dental treatment. The key to a dental malpractice lawsuit is to prove that the clinician violated the standard of care in his or her field. Although dental malpractice law encompasses every imaginable dental incident that causes damage and pain, dental malpractice lawyers tend to see some of the same types of cases over and over again. That’s what this article is all about.
If you read this article and realize you may have been the victim of dental malpractice, we are happy to give you free time with a dental malpractice lawyer at our office. Our law firm offers free legal consultations, and our lawyers do consultations, not customer service representatives or any other type of non-attorney staff. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to reach out to us and set up a time to talk.
Failed Dental Implants
The failure of dental implants is one of the biggest dental malpractice issues today. There are several ways a dental implant procedure may harm the patient, and there are many ways a dental implant might fail. First, the dentist placing the implant does not have the proper credentials or experience required to correctly perform the procedure. There is an epidemic of untrained, novice dentists performing dental implant surgeries, and many people are getting hurt as a result.
Second, a dentist may not have the imaging technology to engage in proper preoperative planning. Some dentists don’t properly plan for a dental implant procedure, and the dentist may not know enough about the anatomical structures surrounding the dental implant site before performing a dental implant procedure. As a result, the dentist may cause serious nerve damage by cutting the nerve or screwing the implant into the nerve. Alternatively, the same failure of planning could lead to the dentist placing mini dental implants in such a way that the mini dental implants migrate into the patient’s sinus and cause serious harm. This is textbook dental negligence.
Third, the dentist may not properly study the patient’s medical history. For example, the dentist should check to see whether the patient has high blood sugar, a condition that affects the immune system. The dentist should also check to see whether the patient has taken or is taking bisphosphonates or other drugs that might affect osseointegration and impede bone growth. Failure to do so can increase the risk that the patient will suffer serious harm or even die as a result of the dental implant surgery.
Procedures on the Wrong Tooth
You’d be surprised how often dentists extract the wrong tooth or perform a procedure on the wrong tooth. If a dentist pulls the wrong tooth or performs a root canal or some other procedure on the wrong tooth, this is absolutely inexcusable. It can only happen if the dentist gets sloppy or if the dentist rushes through a procedure. Whether the dentist is in too big of a hurry or just not being careful, the patient suffers, and thus this is a big reason for dental malpractice lawsuits.
Some forms of dental malpractice are a bit more obvious than others. When a dentist works on the wrong tooth or pulls the wrong tooth, it’s very difficult for the defense to argue that the dentist did nothing wrong. Even the insurance companies’ most unscrupulous defense experts who love to claim dentists did nothing wrong in the face of the most egregious examples of dental malpractice have a hard time swearing that a procedure performed on the wrong tooth is acceptable dentistry. For that reason, these types of cases are some of the strongest, open-and-shut dental malpractice cases.
Pulling Teeth or Extractions
Extractions can be rough, and it often involves a lot of force and maneuvering to remove a tooth from someone’s jaw. Sometimes, people can get hurt badly during a tooth extraction. For example, a dentist might injure a nerve during the extraction. Another risk of extractions is a severe infection at the extraction site. This can spread into the bone or into the blood and cause serious problems. Other times, a dentist might fracture the jaw. When a dentist fractures the jaw and fails to recognize or diagnose the broken jaw, the patient will sometimes develop a bone infection, which is sometimes called “osteomyelitis.” Such an infection can require multiple reconstructive surgeries and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Finally, a patient may also suffer TMJ injuries as a result of a negligently performed extraction.
There are several issues that can arise from bad crown work. For example, you might see an open margin, which is a gap between the natural portion of the tooth and the synthetic portion or the crown. Another issue that might arise as a result of a poorly placed crown is overhang, also known as overhanging restoration, which essentially means that the crown hangs over the tooth more than it should. This creates a trap for food and a perfect environment for decay. Open margins and overhang often lead to painful infections and decay, which can destroy teeth and require the patient to undergo other painful procedures, like root canals or extractions. As a result, open margins and overhang are common reasons for filing dental malpractice lawsuits.
Failure to Diagnose
Failure to diagnose is a common cause of all types of medical malpractice lawsuits. In dentistry or dental malpractice, a dentist might fail to diagnose periodontal disease in a timely fashion. Failure to timely diagnose periodontal disease can result in serious infections, which cause pain, suffering, and disability. Additionally, the untreated periodontal disease will ultimately cause the patient to lose teeth. In more extreme cases, the periodontal disease infection can spread to the patient’s blood, causing serious injury or even death. The issue that forms the basis of the dental malpractice lawsuit is that the dentist failed to recognize and diagnose the periodontal disease, and the patient suffered as a result.
Another type of failure to diagnose claim will involve the failure to diagnose oral cancer. It’s imperative that medical professionals catch cancer at the earliest opportunity. Otherwise, the patient misses the opportunity to treat the cancer and prevent it from growing or spreading to other parts of the body. Cancer left untreated, whether in the mouth or other parts of the body, can take precious time away from a person and the person’s family. We all depend on doctors to help us catch cancer at the earliest possible opportunity. Thus, failure to diagnose oral cancer is a major cause of dental malpractice claims and, in the more tragic cases, wrongful death claims.