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Dental Malpractice: How Can Three Become Sixteen?

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Florence, SCThe particular case of dental malpractice may have occurred some time ago, but it bears repeating—if for no other reason than to serve as a reminder of just what can happen in the dentist's chair, and how horribly things can go wrong. To wit, a woman who agreed to have three teeth removed wound up losing every tooth she had in her upper mouth…

Elizabeth Smith was a young woman when she sought treatment from the Sexton Dental Clinic located in Florence, South Carolina. Her age at the time is a bit fuzzy: the Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom reported her age as 38, whereas the New Daily News, on August 22, 2009, reported her age as 28. Nonetheless, at issue were three problematic teeth that needed to come out.

The extractions were carried out as planned. However, to the surprise of dental malpractice lawyers and just about everyone else, 13 additional teeth were extracted from Smith's upper mouth, for a total of 16.

The extractions represented all of Smith's natural teeth from her upper jaw. In a subsequent dental malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff's attorney maintained that the clinic attempted to cover up the error on Smith's chart.

The procedure was undertaken in 2006. Three years later a jury awarded Smith $2.4 million. The settlement worked out to about $150,000 for each tooth that was wrongfully extracted. Smith, who had yet to have her teeth replaced at the time of the settlement verdict, faced reconstructive surgery estimated by various sources as costing between $80,000 and $96,000.

The New York Daily News reported that the Sexton Dental Clinic was founded in 1923 and bills itself as ''The Original One-Day Denture Clinic,'' according to the Sexton Web site. The clinic recently underwent extensive renovations, with the facility proudly showcased in a photographic slide show posted online.

At the time of the jury award in 2009, Sexton had indicated it planned to appeal the verdict finding for the plaintiff in the medical malpractice dental lawsuit.

Tooth extraction can foster a variety of issues—from the appearance of the mouth cosmetically, to the shape of the jaw and the capacity for, and quality of speech. There was no information at the time as to what Smith did for a living. However, even a planned extraction can have an impact. An unplanned extraction, such as the one suffered by Smith and the subject of the dental malpractice lawsuit, can lead to incalculable consequences.

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READER COMMENTS

Posted by

on
Oh Terry, did you ever find a lawyer? Full mouth extraction both arches, and fixed prostheses is recommended to me last week. Why? Over aggressively crown prepping the teeth. And so far no dentist will take over the case except this one to pull all the teeth and put in fixed prostheses.

There is no amount of money I'd rather have than my teeth!

I hope you found a lawyer, one with a DDS degree, too. I'm looking...also looking for a dentist with a heart for patients.

Posted by

on
I know how she feels. This just happened to me - one tooth hurt and the next thing I know, I'm out of ALL teeth and picking a color of denture out! Then, the dentist sent me to an oral surgeon since I had bony things sticking out of my upper jaw and instead of removing them, he removed the entire upper bone. I look like a freak - I've not only lost my teeth but my whole bone and now? I look 99 years old and cannot bite any food at all. I CANT FIND A LAWYER EITHER. Alaska is not known for good malpractice attorneys. And dental? They don't know enough about dental to even file the case or so I've been told by six! I will forevre live like this: ugly, deformed, and unable to eat. I have lost respect for dentists AND lawyers over this abortion of justice.

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