Dental malpractice is a serious problem that can go unnoticed, even by those experiencing its effects. Unless you have medical or dental training, it can be hard to know the warning signs of a bad dentist.
You do not have to tolerate the physical harm, disfigurement, or chronic pain that can come from bad dentistry. Know the signs of a bad dentist and what to do if you experience harmful or unprofessional behaviour. Keep in mind that while none of these examples of bad dentistry constitute dental malpractice on their own, they may be evidence of dental mistakes, negligence, and malpractice.
Warning Signs of a Bad Dentist
Ignoring Dental Symptoms
When dentists rush examinations or dismiss the complaints of patients, oral disease can go unchecked. Over time, this could lead to a worsened condition with lasting consequences for the patient. Simple cavities could turn into sensitive teeth, broken teeth, or an infection requiring a painful and expensive root canal.
Missing or Incomplete Dental Records
Like other Canadian healthcare providers, dentists are required to chart and record their every activity to satisfy the law and provide quality care to the patient. Any time someone reports that dental records are missing or appear altered, that is a big red flag that the dentist may be covering up dental negligence or malpractice.
Lack of Proper Sterilization Procedures
Sterilization protocols are among the most important aspects of modern dentistry. They are a matter of law and good dental practice. Lack of proper sterilization procedures can lead to infections with serious effects on patients from disfigurement to death.
If you witness a dentist or dental professional disregarding sterilization and infection control procedures or have experienced an infection after visiting the dentist, contact a lawyer to determine whether your dentist may have been negligent.
Lack of Informed Consent
Informed consent laws require dentists to receive permission from patients before conducting a procedure. Getting informed consent requires fully explaining the risks and side effects of treatment so that patients have the opportunity to say no and choose from alternatives. Dentists who don’t give patients this opportunity may have committed malpractice even if treatment was not negligent and did not result in harm.
Conducting Procedures Not Covered by Insurance
Your dental insurance, whether through a private insurer or a public program, covers all or part of treatment. But when insurers negotiate those rates, some dentists may be left feeling like they should receive more for a procedure. If your dentist reports that they provided you with treatment outside of what’s typically covered by insurance, it may be to recoup the cost of what they see as low insurance payouts.
Unnecessary or Excessive Treatments
Unnecessary dental treatments are a problem in Canada. Their impact can range from high costs to individual patients, risk or cause of injury, and higher shared costs through taxpayer-funded dental programs. Examples of commonly administered unnecessary treatments include cosmetic procedures such as veneers, tooth crowns (as the result of decayed teeth and root canals), and cavity fillings.
Going to the dentist can be unnerving for some but just about anyone would be put off by a dentist engaging in unprofessional behaviour. Examples include making false or fraudulent statements, discriminatory or harassing behaviour, billing irregularities, and withheld or misleading information. Some dentists may even choose to misrepresent their credentials or falsely claim to have special skills. Beware of dentists that fail to renew their practice certifications or those that do not make their license to practice available to patients.
Surprise, Inaccurate, or Multiple Bills
Quality dental care can be expensive but bills that arrive out of nowhere, include items you don’t recognize, or are completely unexpected can be a sign something is amiss with your dentist. If you suspect something is wrong, report it and consider following up with a lawyer that can tell you whether your dentist’s billing practices are unusual or even illegal.
Excessive or Illegal Promotions
In Canada, healthcare services like dentistry have their promotional activities limited. While a dentist is permitted to advertise and raise awareness of their clinic, giving away free or discounted care would be highly unusual or even illegal.