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If you think you may need a dental malpractice attorney, the information below could help. We will start with a big picture view, and then we will dig deeper into the specifics of a dental malpractice lawsuit.

When a dentist damages a patient as a result of the dentist’s negligent acts or omissions, the patient may be able to sue for dental malpractice. Chapter 766 of the Florida Statutes governs dental malpractice actions in Florida.

Simply put, a dentist commits dental malpractice when he or she fails to meet the standard of care in providing dental services to a patient and causes the patient to suffer injury or illness. For example, if a patient has a dental implant failure, that’s a good sign that something went wrong. Similarly, if a patient experiences nerve damage and has numbness or tingling, the dentist likely did something wrong.

Dental malpractice cases follow the same procedural rules as medical malpractice cases. In fact, they are medical malpractice cases, except that they focus on dental work. Let’s talk a little about what a dental malpractice attorney might look at to properly evaluate your case.

What Are Common Reasons for Filing a Dental Malpractice Case?

If your dentist injures you, you may have a dental malpractice lawsuit. Some errors that occur during dental procedures are easily corrected and don’t cause lingering pain, injury, or infection. On the other hand, some mistakes can cause serious and lasting injury. A dental malpractice attorney will look to see whether a patient has suffered injuries from his or her dental work and why those injuries occurred.

The American Dental Association lists many common injuries that may occur as the result of dental malpractice. Some of the more common types of dental malpractice include the following.

Dental Implant Failure

Dental implants can fall out or fail for a number of reasons. For example, your dentist may place the wrong size implant or place an implant at an improper angle. The bottom line is that about 98% of dental implants are successful. Thus, if your dental implant fails or if your dental implant falls out, this is a big red flag for your dental malpractice attorney.

Nerve Damage

When a dentist damages the patient’s nerve, it can cause permanent damage and severe pain.  There are many ways this can happen. For example, dentists cut nerves during procedures or place an implant too close to the nerve. Unfortunately, nerve damage is all too common in dental malpractice cases. Hence, you should contact a dental malpractice attorney as soon as possible if you think you have suffered nerve damage.

Soft Tissue Damage

Dentists can injure bone, muscle, or soft tissue when removing teeth, placing implants, or performing other dental procedures. Soft tissue damage can be very painful and can seriously interrupt a patient’s life, and it often accompanies bigger dental malpractice issues. Therefore, if you have soft tissue damage, your dental malpractice attorney may be able to get you compensation for your damage.

Lack of Consent

A dentist must have informed consent before treating a patient, so the dentist must tell the patient about the risks and benefits of the procedure, as well as the available alternatives. Unfortunately, many dentists do not give their patients enough information for the patient to consent to the procedure. Therefore, lack of consent is another big-ticket item for your dental malpractice attorney to look into on your behalf.

Tooth Infection

A dentist can cause an infection in a patient by improperly sterilizing equipment prior to performing dental procedures. Similarly, a dentist may cause infection by not properly prescribing antibiotics. Additionally, a dentist may overlook infections, and this can cause serious issues for a patient. For example, dentists may place an implant in the presence of infection, which can greatly increase the chance that the implant fails.

Dentist Pulled Wrong Tooth

If a dentist pulls the wrong tooth, this is typically a careless and clearly avoidable mistake. If your dentist extracted the wrong tooth, you should contact a dental malpractice attorney right away because this is one of the more egregious forms of dental malpractice. There is no excuse for pulling the wrong tooth.

Sinus Perforation

When a dentist removes a tooth, places a dental implant, or performs a sinus lift surgery, there is a serious risk of puncturing the sinus cavity, which we call a sinus perforation. This can be extremely painful, and it often causes serious infection if not treated quickly. If you experience an unusual amount of sniffling or sneezing or any sinus-related symptoms after a dental surgical procedure, you should contact a dental malpractice attorney immediately. You should also seek medical attention because this kind of injury is very serious.

Damaging Liquid Solutions

If a dentist uses improper solutions during a procedure, it can burn sinus tissues or even damage nerves. This is often due to a careless mistake or a dentist’s failure to properly educate himself or herself about what solutions to use in a given situation.

Improper Medication

A dentist can commit malpractice if he or she fails to administer anesthesia, pain medications, or antibiotics when needed. For example, if a dentist fails to treat an infection, a dental implant can fail or fall out. Talk to your dental malpractice attorney to determine if your dentist used or prescribed improper medications.

Failure to Refer a Patient to a Specialist

A big issue in dental malpractice is that dentists will put money before patient safety and attempt to perform surgeries or procedures that they are not properly trained to perform. Additionally, dentists might not properly inform a patient that the dentist is not adequately trained for the given procedure. This is a big reason patients will ultimately contact a dental malpractice attorney.

Failure to Diagnose

If a dentist fails to recognize cancer or a tumor that a reasonable dentist would have noticed on an X-ray, the patient can die or lose valuable time in his or her life. Similarly, if a dentist fails to diagnose or properly treat an oral disease, a patient can lose teeth that were salvageable. A failure to diagnose is often due to a dentist’s incompetence or failure to adequately review the patient’s file and images. If this sounds like something that happened to you, contact a dental malpractice attorney to see if you have a dental malpractice claim.

How to Prove Dental Malpractice

A dental malpractice lawsuit involves four major elements that the plaintiff or dental malpractice attorney must prove by a preponderance of the evidence. Those elements are duty, breach, causation, and damages.

  1. Duty. The dental malpractice attorney must prove that the dentist owed a duty to the plaintiff. Most often, this means that the plaintiff or claimant was a patient of the defendant dentist.
  2. Breach of duty. The attorney must prove that the dentist or dental staff provided a level of care that fell short of the applicable standard of care.
  3. Causation. The attorney must prove that the failure to meet the standard of care caused an injury (physical harm, illness, or both).
  4. Damages. There must be some damages. In other words, the injury or harm the dentist caused must be compensable. This means that the damages must be measurable in some way, typically by assigning a dollar amount.

If your dental malpractice attorney can prove these four elements, you likely have a viable dental malpractice lawsuit.

Costs of Bad Dental Work

A dental malpractice attorney will attempt to calculate all your tangible and intangible costs to determine what kind of money damages you are entitled to.

Dental malpractice can result in serious financial and personal costs for the harmed patient. The cost of medical bills, corrective dental work, and lost wages can all put a strain on a patient’s finances. In addition, the pain and suffering caused by dental malpractice can be devastating, both for the patient and the patient’s family.

Here’s the deal, insurance companies have spent countless dollars to promote the idea that dental malpractice cases are bad for our country and healthcare system. These claims are meritless and misleading, albeit money well spent for the insurance companies. It’s great marketing for them.

The truth is that dental malpractice cases act as a check and balance on dentists and their staff. Without this check and balance, we can all see how patient safety would become an afterthought for dentists. As a result, more people would needlessly suffer without dental malpractice claims and lawsuits.

With the civil law system, our society makes wrongdoers pay with money. Money gets their attention, and money changes their behavior. Thankfully, dentists are typically required to carry some type of professional insurance coverage. Thus, they may not be personally liable for any settlement or verdict against them. Regardless, if you have been harmed by your dentist, we recommend you contact a dental malpractice attorney immediately to protect your rights.

Do You Need to Speak to an Experienced Dental Malpractice Attorney?

When you’re facing a financial burden caused by another party’s negligence, you need an attorney who will fight for you like family. Spetsas Buist is based in Orlando but serves clients in all of Florida, as well as in South Carolina and North Carolina. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.