Professionals are held to certain standards of competence. Dentists are held to a standard of care that is measured by what another dentist of reasonable competence under similar circumstances would have done or not done in performing a certain procedure or in the care provided. If a particular dentist breached or deviated from that standard of care and the resulting injury was significant, then he or she may be liable for dental malpractice.
A serious injury can disable the victim and cause devastating consequences to lives and finances. Victims may not be able to work and some or all of their care from the negligent dental work may not be covered by insurance while the dental malpractice claim slowly works its way through the claim or litigation process.
In these circumstances, a victim needs to consult with a dental malpractice attorney to be advised if a claim does exist and what steps need to be taken.
Examples of Dental Malpractice
Dental errors can occur in a wide range of areas and there are a multitude of example cases, however here are some common examples:
- Failing to Conduct a Proper Medical History or to Account for Medical History
- A dentist must note each patient visit and his or her complaints of the patient. A complaint that is ignored and leads to an infection or other serious oral problem may subject the dentist to liability. Also, a patient may be on certain medications that oral surgery may exacerbate or result in serious complications.
- Failure or delay in diagnosis or to treat conditions like gum disease or oral cancer
- Pulling the wrong tooth
- Performing Unnecessary Procedures
- Overcharging for services
- Not qualified to perform specialized services
- For example, not all dentists can perform orthodontia work without additional training. A dentist who holds him or herself out as an orthodontist or orthodontist specialist must perform work that a reasonably competent orthodontist would have performed under similar circumstances.
- Negligently completed crowns or bridges leading to Complications
- Failure to obtain informed consent A dentist must receive your consent to perform a treatment or procedure and cannot exceed that treatment or procedure without your further consent. Also, if the dentist fails to inform the patient of a risk involved in a procedure and any viable alternatives, he or she may be liable for the injury that occurs.
Types of Injuries from Dental Malpractice
The variations include:
- Permanent numbness or loss of taste
- Death or injury from negligent administration of anesthesia
- Infections to gums, teeth or jaw bone from negligent root canal or bridge prosthesis or faulty dental devices
- Wrongful death from oral surgery or infections
- Injuries from negligent or unnecessary extractions
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
- Structural damage to the jaw, tongue, chin or lips
Along with the dentist, the staff may also be held accountable for any errors they may have committed in your care or treatment. If the dental office is owned by another entity or party, they may also be liable if they hired the dentist and employed him or her.
In the event a dental device such as a laser was faulty, the manufacturer or designer of the device may be held liable under product liability law.
Steps to Take
If you suspect that your dentist was incompetent or was negligent in your care or treatment, promptly contact a dental malpractice attorney. These actions come under medical malpractice law and the time limits, or statute of limitations, for filing a claim is strict, as are other filing requirements. Only the experience and knowledge of a dental malpractice attorney can assure you that your claim will be handled in a professional manner.