When people think about medical malpractice, they typically think of a surgeon removing the wrong limb or operating on the wrong patient—few people think about the possibility of dental malpractice. Malpractice is shockingly common in dental and oral specialties. Many laypeople have minimal understanding of oral conditions, and if something goes wrong, they may not think they have any way to seek compensation. If you’ve been the victim of a dentist’s or oral surgeon’s mistake, you have options.
Mistakes Made by Dental Professionals
Medical and dental work does not come with any guarantees, so there are limitations to medical malpractice lawsuits—for example, you likely can’t sue if you don’t like your dentist’s bedside manner or you think your filling took too long. However, an error that leads to pain and suffering, requires additional treatment or permanently damages your mouth could qualify for compensation. Common errors include:
- Failing to diagnose or misdiagnosing a dental condition
- Extracting the wrong tooth or performing unnecessary extractions
- Exposing a patient to infection through poor hygiene or dirty dental instruments
- Improperly performed root canal
- Poor placement of bridges
- Improper orthodontic treatment
Long-Term Effects of Dental Errors
A dental mistake can have lifelong consequences for a patient. Much depends on the type of error and its severity. A missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis could lead to the deterioration of the teeth and gums. Once the damage is noticed, it may require far more painful or expensive treatment than it would have if the dentist noticed it earlier. Incorrect or unnecessary extractions may expose patients to infection, cause a substantial amount of pain and suffering, and require the use of false teeth.
The use of dirty dental instruments is a serious problem in some dental offices. If all care providers do not follow strict hygienic practices or clean instruments improperly, patients can easily be exposed to other patients’ germs. This can lead to the spread of disease and major oral infections.
Dentists and oral surgeons performing complicated procedures like root canals, bridges, or other dental repairs are prone to errors—this type of work requires substantial concentration and extreme attention to detail. When a care provider errs in these procedures, patients often need a lot of followup work and may suffer unnecessary pain or loss of function.
Holding Negligent Providers Accountable
Whether a dental professional’s error is caused by poor decision making, a slip of the hand, or malice, they must be held responsible for their action or inaction. Dental mistakes can leave patients in excruciating pain or require the use of artificial structures in the mouth to maintain form and function.
Medical malpractice attorneys use several types of evidence to investigate a potential case. They may look at your consent forms, dental X-rays, and notes made by the dentist, dental hygienist, and dental assistant. Once they have a clear understanding of exactly what happened, they’ll compare the dentist’s actions to the current standard of care. If their actions do not match current expectations in the field of dentistry or another dental specialist in a similar situation would have made significantly different decisions, you may have a malpractice claim.
Potential Damages in a Dental or Oral Care Malpractice Case
Damages differ quite a bit between cases, depending primarily on the type and extent of your injury. If your dentist’s error required you to seek followup care—either through them or another dental professional—you may be able to recoup those costs through a medical malpractice case. Your attorney may also want to seek damages for:
- Pain and suffering, including physical pain caused by operations and the emotional pain or distress that may come with missing teeth or poorly done dental work
- Lost income
- Future dental treatment expenses
- Medical expenses, such as those incurred when a patient needs treatment for improperly performed anesthesia
We’re Here to Help When Your Oral Health Care Provider Fails You
Dental professionals are held to a high standard of care, and you should be able to trust them to provide high-quality care. When they fall short and act negligently, we are here to hold them accountable. To discuss the details of your dental malpractice case, call Doughty Alcaraz, P.A.at 505-242-7070.