Negligence and malpractice occur in the dental profession as well as in any other profession. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, one out of every seven medical malpractice cases directly involved a dental professional in 2006. Dental malpractice can occur if a dentist fails to diagnose or treat possible conditions such as oral cancer or other serious problems; delays diagnosis or treatment of oral disease or other precarious oral conditions; and any intentional misconduct on the dental professional's part.
Dental malpractice cases typically fall under malpractice law. As with medical malpractice claims, you must demonstrate that your injury is more than short-term pain. If you can prove that the dental care provider (including dental assistant, dental hygienist, oral surgeon ) unintentionally or intentionally committed an act that no other reasonable prudent oral healthcare provider would have committed during the same time period, and that act must have caused significant injury, a dental malpractice attorney may help you recover considerable compensation if the case were to go to trial.
If you required expensive emergency surgery to correct what the dentist did wrong, if you missed a significant amount of work, or if you suffered permanent loss of sensation, or disfigurement along with pain and suffering, the dentist's malpractice insurance should allow you a fair settlement.
Negligent dental practice can include the following:
- Nerve injuries that affect a patient's ability to taste and/or cause permanent numbness to the nerves of the tongue, jaw, chin and lips, including lingual nerve injury (tongue) and inferior alveolar nerve damage (lips, chin and jaw)
- Permanent or temporary numbness or loss of taste sensation
- Permanent or temporary structural injuries to the tongue, jaw, chin or lips
- Temporo Mandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders
- Wrongful death resulting from dental procedures or oral surgery
- Injuries or death caused by improper or negligent administration of anesthesia
- Complications arising from negligently completed crowns and bridges
- Dentists' failures to take into account a patient's relevant medical history
- Failure to detect oral cancer, periodontal disease, or other diseases
- Certain complications from anesthesia, even when releases are signed
- Unnecessary extraction of multiple teeth and/or extraction of wrong teeth
- Molesting a patient while under sedation
- Failure to obtain informed consent
- Treatment exceeding the scope of informed consent
- Complications from dental work performed months earlier
Dental malpractice lawsuits can also include dental product liability claims, including silicone implants and dental lasers and legal malpractice claims based on underlying dental malpractice.
Obtain a copy of all your dental records, including information that may be on the computer, such as your account history. It is also important that all x-rays be duplicated and obtained (there may be a charge), as well as progress notes, copies of prescriptions, copies of referral slips, etc. Your dental records, x-rays, and models belong to you and a health care provider is required by law to give you copies of your records.
If You Suspect Dental Malpractice
Dental malpractice attorneys advise that you tell the provider you want your records for a second opinion dentist or to make sure that future dental providers are accurately informed about past dental history, to ensure that you obtain all records.
Document every event in a journal; it will help remind you of events and symptoms that occurred. The more evidence you have, the more credibility your dental malpractice claim has.
There is a statute of limitations to file a dental malpractice claim, which varies from state to state. Some states also have tort claim statutes that require formal notification of a public hospital or government-employed healthcare provider regarding your claim within a very short period of time, sometimes as short as 180 days after treatment ends or after the suspected injury. Consult a qualified dental malpractice attorney regarding statutes.
Statute of Limitations
If you believe that you suffered quantifiable damages as a result of negligence by a dentist, you may have grounds for a dental malpractice lawsuit. You should consult a qualified attorney who specializes in personal liability cases, and particularly in dental malpractice.
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Last updated on Jun-19-10