Dental malpractice is a serious issue that affects many patients, often leading to severe injuries or death. If dental patients suffer injuries or illness resulting from an improperly performed dental treatment or procedure, they may be able to file a dental malpractice claim to recover compensation for their resulting medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.
When Dental Malpractice Takes Place
Similar to other medical professionals, dentists are required to meet a standard of care to help keep patients safe from harm. A failure to meet this standard can qualify as negligence and may lead to serious injuries to patients. If a patient sustains injuries or wrongful death, the victim and his or her family may be able to succeed in a medical malpractice claim if he or she can prove that the provider’s negligence caused the injuries.
Several types of dental malpractice cases are more common than others. Some of the reasons for filing a dental malpractice claim include:
Improper Crown and Bridge Placement
In some cases, dentists may recommend the placement of crowns or bridges when they aren’t necessary. This could lead to damage to healthy teeth and costly procedures that aren’t required. In other instances, dentists may improperly place crowns or bridges, leading to infection of the underlying pulp, gums, or other areas of the mouth, along with additional costs for otherwise unnecessary follow-up procedures. Defective medical devices may also cause an injury during these procedures.
Prescribing Incorrect Drugs or Dosages
Following some procedures, dentists may prescribe medications, such as antibiotics, to prevent infection and reduce pain. In doing so, dentists are required to prescribe medication based on the patient’s age, size, and medical history, along with other factors. If they fail to prescribe the right drug or the correct dosage, this could lead to serious health issues.
Improper Tooth Extraction
Some patients require tooth extraction procedures to pull damaged or injured teeth. Considering this procedure is common among dental patients, improper extraction is one of the most common reasons for filing a dental malpractice claim.
Improper extraction of teeth could entail extracting the wrong teeth, extractions that cause damage to the nerves or gums, or the unnecessary extraction of healthy teeth. As a result of improper extraction, infections may develop that lead to future procedures that are otherwise avoidable. Additionally, infections could cause long-term oral health issues or permanent nerve damage, requiring future treatments.
There are times where patients have actually developed facial cellulitis because a dental abscess isn’t taken care of properly, which is a condition that could have been prevented if handled correctly.
The second most common reason people file claims for dental malpractice is alleged incorrect endodontic procedures. This branch of dentistry concerns dental pulp and the tissues that surround the roots of the tooth. When endodontic procedures (root canal treatments) are performed improperly, instruments may be left in canals, sinus and nerve perforations may occur, and victims may develop life-threatening infections. In some cases, dental malpractice victims may suffer permanent brain damage or fatality caused by resulting brain abscesses or osteomyelitis.
Orthodontic Treatment Complications
Orthodontic procedures involve the correction and prevention of tooth alignment irregularities. Orthodontic negligence may involve the incorrect application of braces or failing to properly monitor a patient with braces. When braces are applied incorrectly, victims may develop periodontal disease, pain, or their teeth may become positioned incorrectly. Jaw problems may result. Teeth extractions, future surgeries, or orthodontic treatments may also become necessary.
Improper Treatment After Procedures
After performing a procedure, dentists may fail to recommend proper post-procedure treatments or perform necessary tests. Patients may also experience a certain level of pain and discomfort following extensive treatments, such as root canals. If a dentist fails to address these issues, this may constitute malpractice.
Failure to Diagnose Oral Health Issues
Some malpractice cases involve dentists who fail to properly diagnose oral health problems, such as oral disease and cancer. If a dentist is trained to recognize an issue that becomes apparent through X-rays or other tests, it’s the dentist’s responsibility to perform additional testing or recommend treatment.
Dental Anesthesia Complications
Tying with tooth extraction procedures for the most fatalities caused by dental malpractice, dental anesthesia complications often occur when a patient’s medical history or current condition is not taken into account before he or she is sedated, when patients are undersedated or oversedated, or when dental equipment is used incorrectly or malfunctions. Victims of dental anesthesia negligence may experience dental trauma including fractured or broken teeth, the displacement of teeth, mental or physical impairment, or even death.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Dental Malpractice?
If a dentist practices any of these or other instances of negligence and patients sustain injuries as a result, victims may be able to file a dental malpractice claim to hold the responsible parties liable for injuries. Dentists are not the only parties who may be held liable in a dental malpractice claim, however. Dental clinics, hygienists, anesthesiologists, dental assistants, and other professionals who contributed to the injuries may also be held responsible for victims’ losses.