When people visit the dentist to get a tooth extracted, the last thing on their mind is that the dentist is going to pull the wrong tooth. This kind of a blunder seems too ridiculous for your average professional; however, you’d be surprised how often this happens. After having the wrong tooth pulled, folks often wonder about wrong tooth extraction settlement amount or settlement value because they want to get their teeth fixed.
Well, that’s what this article is all about. We’ll talk about some of the issues leading to wrong tooth extractions and why this is such a problem. Then, we’ll talk more about what these cases are worth, and what you can expect moving forward.
How Can a Dentist Extract the Wrong Tooth, and Why is This Happening So Much?
The reality is that dentistry is getting worse. Wall Street has entered dentistry, and now we have massive dental corporations called “dental service organizations.” Long gone are the days when your family dentist takes care of you and knows your family personally. That’s almost entirely a thing of the past.
Now, you have dentists working for these massive dental service organizations who serve the role of an employee. They’re not usually the most qualified; they’re not outstanding academics; and they’re willing to work for whatever wage the dental service organization pays them. These are not outstanding dentists invested in their education, their business, and in their community; they’re dentists for hire.
So, why is this “big business” dentistry a problem? Well, it’s simple: Time is money, and these organizations are pushing their dentists to spend as little time as possible with patients. Thus, when these dentists are performing a procedure, they’re looking to do it as quickly as possible. These aren’t perfectionists dedicated to their craft like the dentists a generation ago. It’s that simple.
Now, if it sounds like this business model could lead to mistakes and sub-par dentistry, that’s because it does. More and more, we’re getting calls from people who have had the wrong tooth extracted. I’m not talking about some hidden issue that the dentist missed; I’m talking about obvious blunders and ridiculous mistakes.
The reality is this trend will continue so long as the bar keeps getting lowered. So long as businesses get folks in the door with their marketing dollars instead of their outstanding dentists and so long as these organizations continue to push supply-chain principles into the dental profession, you’ll see more and more bad dentistry and dental malpractice.
The Basics of Dental Malpractice in the Context of a Wrong Tooth Extraction
Dental malpractice occurs when a dentist fails to provide dental care that rises to the level of the standard of care that is expected of professionals in the field, and this “breach” of the standard of care causes harm to the patient. In Florida, injured dental patients and their lawyers must get the assistance of a dental expert witness to state whether a dentist breached the standard of care, usually in the form of an affidavit. In other words, a lawyer cannot simply allege that a dentist breached the standard of care and thus committed dental malpractice, the lawyer must have an expert make that assertion.
What Makes a Wrong Tooth Extraction Claim Successful?
The key to a successful dental malpractice claim is proving that the dentist was negligent. Then, the patient and their dental malpractice attorney need to show that the dentist’s negligence led to the patient’s harm. If the patient can make this showing, he or she may be entitled to compensation.
Generally speaking, in any claim for negligence, the plaintiff must show by a preponderance of the evidence that:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The defendant breached that duty;
- The plaintiff suffered damages; and
- The defendant’s breach of duty was the cause of the plaintiff’s damages.
These are the four basic elements of negligence that will be relevant in any personal injury claim. Whether it’s a car accident, truck accident, or a dental malpractice case, we must establish the basic elements of negligence.
A wrong tooth extraction is a prime example of negligence and dental malpractice because it’s a difficult argument for the dentist to say they did nothing wrong. It’s a blatant and ridiculous mistake to extract the wrong tooth.
Nonetheless, you’d be surprised at what paid dental experts will say on behalf of the defense. It’s not uncommon for the defense to pay an expert to say that the tooth pulled was not the wrong tooth, and this can lead to an expensive battle, all because the insurance company doesn’t want to pay an obvious claim for dental malpractice.
How Do You Determine a Wrong Tooth Extraction Settlement Amount?
The circumstances surrounding each dental malpractice case involving a wrong tooth extraction are unique, and certain elements of the claim can either increase or decrease the potential settlement. Below are some of the factors we look at in every dental malpractice case.
- Severity of Harm: The graver the consequences of the error, the higher the likely compensation. More severe injuries will typically justify a higher settlement amount.
- Future Medical Needs: If ongoing treatment is required, this can push up the settlement amount in a dental malpractice case. When a dentist extracts the wrong tooth, the damage will usually require implant placement and restoration. This can require multiple visits per year and a significant amount of money.
- Evidence of Negligence: Concrete evidence that the dentist was at fault can strengthen a claim. In other words, the more blatant the malpractice, the stronger the claim. Thus, wrong tooth extraction cases are usually quite strong because the act of malpractice is so ridiculous and absurd.
- Skill and Experience of Your Dental Malpractice Attorney: An attorney who has handled a lot of dental malpractice cases in Florida and in other states can help you get the maximum amount of money for your claim. Knowing what these cases are worth is a critical piece of the puzzle because a lawyer can spend thousands and thousands of dollars on an expert witness, which ultimately takes money out of the client’s pocket. Knowing how to strategically negotiate these cases is the best way to put money in the client’s pocket.
Taking all of these factors together and coming up with a value for each unique case is a critical part of any dental malpractice case. This is where your Florida dental malpractice lawyer can help you to set a goal and work to obtain that goal.
What Damages Are Available in a Wrong Tooth Extraction Case?
A dental malpractice case involving a wrong tooth extraction will involve the same consideration of damages as any other personal injury case. Generally speaking, in a Florida personal injury case, we divide damages into economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic Damages in Dental Malpractice
Economic damages in a dental malpractice case will include things like medical bills to fix the damage a dentist caused. Other economic damages would include missed work for dental appointments or for time it took to recover from an injury. Economic damages are the foundation of any personal injury case, and this is what the insurance company is looking at most when it comes time to settle a case.
In a wrong tooth extraction case, the economic damages are often the cost of getting an implant where the wrong tooth was extracted. This is often somewhere between $3,000 and $7,500, depending on the skill level of the dentist proposing to do the implant procedure. Skilled dentists with serious implant education and implant skills, sometimes called “implantologists,” will charge more.
There are also future economic damages sometimes associated with implant claims. Implants, like any other prosthetic body part, require more upkeep and medical attention than the natural thing, the natural tooth. Thus, patients will have to spend extra money every year to attend the additional appointments necessary for the upkeep of dental implants.
These are just some of the common economic damages when a dentist pulls the wrong tooth. Each patient’s damages will vary, depending on the facts of their unique case.
Non-Economic Damages in Dental Malpractice
Non-economic damages are things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. While some types of dental malpractice cases will cause a patient permanent damage and cause them to suffer a tremendous amount of pain and other non-economic damages (think permanent nerve injury or failure to diagnose cancer), wrong tooth procedures generally cause a patient to suffer pain only temporarily. Once the wrong tooth is pulled and once it heals, the pain is generally over.
However, even when the pain is gone, there’s distress because we only have 32 teeth in a lifetime. Each one lost is a serious loss, and it’s gone forever. Just like we have limited fingers and toes that we want to keep the rest of our lives, we don’t want to lose any of our valuable teeth.
This is something insurance companies and their attorneys tend to downplay. I like to ask how they’d feel if someone destroyed or extracted one of their permanent teeth. This is a serious loss, and it causes people problems, and lost natural and healthy teeth can be a tragedy.
So, What’s a Good Wrong Tooth Extraction Settlement Amount?
Well, this is the golden question, isn’t it? The fact is that each case is unique, and you need to work with your dental malpractice attorney to determine what the proper value is for your wrong tooth extraction case. A good rule of thumb is to look at the medical damages involved and apply a multiple, and this is a way you can come up with a ballpark value for your case.
For example, let’s say your dentist extracts the wrong tooth. Now, you’re going to need a bone graft, a sinus lift, and a dental implant, and you’re going to need to get that dental implant fully restored. Let’s also say you missed some work for the extra dental appointments. As a result, you have a treatment plan for $7,500, and you’ve missed out on $2,500 worth of work.
Without calculating future costs or future missed work, we have a total value of $10,000 here. Just for the sake of the hypothetical, let’s say that the $10,000 is the entirety of your medical damages and lost wages (your economic damages). You can now take that $10,000 and apply a multiple, say 3x, which is common in many jurisdictions for run-of-the-mill personal injury cases. You now have a $30,000 ballpark figure to work with.
Each jurisdiction is different, and there may be reasons why a claim may be worth more or less in a given case. In Florida and other states in the Southeast, wrong tooth procedures will generally range from $25,000 to $50,000. Florida allows us to access this information from the Florida Department of Health’s website by looking up claims filed against dentists.
Ultimately, a good settlement amount for a tooth extraction case will boil down to the case at hand. Additionally, you have to consider timing of the settlement. If you and your dental malpractice lawyer can settle a case before having to pay an expert thousands of dollars and before having to pay a mediator thousands of dollars, you could end up with a lot more money in your pocket than if you got a higher amount after spending all this money. The client’s goal is usually to get the most money in their pocket, and this usually involves some strategy to accomplish this goal.
FAQs Relating to Wrong Tooth Extraction Settlement Amount
Q1: What happens when a dentist removes the wrong tooth?
A1: This is usually a very troubling issue for the patient. Not only did the patient not have the proper tooth extracted (which still needs to be extracted), but now the patient has a gap where the other tooth should be. This can cause serious issues, and the road to recovery can be long and frustrating.
Q2: How common is it for a dentist to pull the wrong tooth?
A2: As we leave the era of family dentists that take pride in their work and move into the era of dental service organizations and employee-dentists, we’ll see much more dental blunders and obvious mistakes. When your focus is seeing as many patients as possible in a day, mistakes are bound to happen, and we’re seeing an astronomical rise in ridiculous dental errors.
Q3: Can you sue for nerve damage after tooth extraction?
A3: This will depend upon the case. Whether or not the dentist breached the standard of care will ultimately revolve around the medical records and what condition the dentist encountered in the extraction of the tooth. Sometimes, there is a viable dental malpractice case when a dentist causes permanent nerve damage during a tooth extraction.
Q4: What is the most difficult tooth to extract?
A4: Every patient is different. However, judging from my experience, third molars (wisdom teeth) are some of the riskiest teeth to extract.
Q5: Why am I in so much pain after tooth extraction?
A5: If you’re feeling serious pain after an extraction, you need to call your medical provider ASAP. You may have an infection or some other complication, and the best thing you can do is bring any issues you’re having to your medical provider’s attention at the earliest possible time.
Q6: What is the statute of limitations for filing a dental malpractice case after a wrong tooth extraction?
A6: The statute of limitations in Florida dental malpractice cases is two (2) years from the date of the incident (when the wrong tooth was removed) or two (2) years from when the patient discovered or should have discovered the issue. Although the 2-year period may not start running for a while after the incident in some dental malpractice cases, a wrong tooth extraction is an obvious mistake that the patient usually discovers right away. So, the statute of limitations is generally two (2) years from the date the dentist extracted the wrong tooth.