The importance of quality dental care to health and well-being is well known and essential for people of all ages. Thankfully, most dentists are committed to delivering a high standard of care. But they can make mistakes or even ignore proper safety measures and normal standards of care. These lapses can result in painful and debilitating injuries to patients. This could also result in a loss of self confidence if the injuries are visible. Errors could be the result of dental malpractice, with victims left feeling like they don’t have options.
This overview of dental malpractice cases includes examples of dental malpractice. Dental patients who suffered malpractice may be able to seek legal recourse and make a personal injury claim against the offending dentist. It is important those acting negligently and recklessly be held accountable.
Common Types of Dental Malpractice
While the examples of dental malpractice can vary widely, ranging from the negligent to the careless or even malicious, those who will file a claim are likely to have experienced one or more of the following:
- Anesthesia side effects and injury
- Infection (either acute or long-lasting)
- Nerve injuries
- Missed or wrong diagnosis
- Failure to treat
- Lack of informed consent
- Laceration in the mouth or on the face
Examples of Dental Malpractice
Dentists must follow a standard of care intended to promote the best care and protect patients. Canadian and British Columbian dentists have a duty to deliver care that meets basic standards of oral health and safety. Dentists should follow generally accepted practices based on what the average dentist could be reasonably expected to provide according to the latest accepted knowledge. All dentists should aspire to adhere to the highest ethical and quality care standards.
1. Performing Medically Unnecessary or Invasive Procedures
Dentists may make treatment recommendations that are not medically necessary or are excessively invasive. Examples include pulling teeth that do not need to be extracted or using more expensive general anesthesia when a local anesthetic will do. Procedures that result in long-term care rather than a shorter-term recovery may also be medically unnecessary.
2. Broken Instruments
Instruments that are improperly used or cared for can become brittle and break. When they do, they can dislodge in a patient’s mouth without their knowledge, leading to significant discomfort and long-term damage. Embedded portions of broken tools can require surgery to remove.
3. Improperly Sterilized Tools
Many dental tools can be reused and require cleaning and sterilization between patients. Improperly sterilized tools can result in serious chronic infections requiring expensive long-term care, such as Hepatitis A, B, or C, or HIV.
4. Wisdom Teeth Removal
At one time, the standard of care was to remove wisdom teeth as early as possible. Some dentists still do this. But wisdom teeth extracted too early, too late, or without the necessary care can result in medical complications including painful conditions like a dry socket.
5. Nerve Damage
Nerve damage is serious and can result in temporary or permanent pain or deformity. Nerve damage can result from a number of dental procedures including fillings, root canals, and extractions. Common symptoms of nerve damage include pain when eating, a dull ache in the area near a procedure, and pain that radiates throughout the face and mouth.
6. Root Canal
Root canals are common but serious dental procedures. Complications from root canals include infection and tooth cracking, resulting in long-term damage to oral health.
Improperly fitted dentures can lead to serious jaw or gum pain. They can rub against the gum in a way that produces sores that can become infected. While some discomfort can be expected with dentures, those that are improperly sized, are defective, or contain materials that are harmful could be the result of dental malpractice.
8. Anesthesia Complications
It’s normal to have side effects from appropriately administered anesthesia drugs. However, improperly administered drugs can lead to nervous system damage, coma, and even death.
Filing a Malpractice Claim
If you are currently suffering from significant pain or injury following a dental appointment or have done so in the past, contact the lawyers at Stephens and Holman to help you determine what courses of action are available to you. Dental injuries can be devastating but you may be able to seek legal recourse.