Dental malpractice suits make up only a small percentage of medical malpractice cases. If you are the patient who has suffered greatly because of a dental error, or the loved one of someone who has suffered a wrongful death in the dentist’s chair, however, this statistic is not relevant.
If you believe you have been a victim of dental malpractice, the first step you should take is consulting with a medical malpractice attorney who specializes in dental cases. The more experience your attorney has in dental malpractice cases, the more likely he or she is to be able to win your case and obtain the substantial compensation you deserve.
Despite the fact that most dentists are careful professionals, there are some who can, whether through preoccupation or negligence, make serious mistakes that have long-term or permanent consequences. If this happens, you have every legal right to file a dental malpractice lawsuit against the particular dentist who caused you or your loved one harm, whether he or she was a general dentist, prosthodontist, orthodontist, endodontist, pediatric dentist or periodontist.
Types of Dental Malpractice
There are three basic types of dental malpractice:
- Medication errors in which either too little or too much anesthesia (local or general) is administered, or in which the dentist fails to consider all possible medication interactions
- Procedural errors which occur during implant, endodontic or surgical errors
- Diagnostic errors which typically involve failure to diagnose a mouth or tongue cancer
While the statute of limitations for filing a dental malpractice lawsuit is 2 years 6 months, and that period usually begins when the mistake occurs, the statute may extend longer if the patient had no means of discovering the error until a later date, for example when diagnosed with a malignancy or other disease condition of which the mouth problem was an indication.
Specific Examples of Dental Malpractice That Are Not as Rare as You May Think
Patients have also, with the help of a highly qualified dental malpractice attorney, been able to win cases that involved:
- Failure to properly treat a dental condition, resulting in an exacerbation of that condition
- Delay in treatment that results in further injury to the patient
- Nerve damage caused by surgical errors
- Unnecessary extractions
- Extractions of the wrong tooth or teeth
- Perforating the sinus cavity during an extraction, an implant or another dental procedure
- Infection resulting from dentist’s failure to maintain sterile dental tools or equipment
- Prescription of the wrong drug or the wrong dosage
- Failure to refer a patient to a specialist when necessary
- Failure to obtain informed consent from the patient prior to a procedure
- Failing to inform the patient of any risks associated with a procedure
- Wrongful death resulting from dental treatment or oral surgery, usually associated with anesthesia administration
It should be remembered that not every dental mistake reaches the level of dental malpractice, but when an error is due to the dentist’s (or hygienist’s) lack of competence or negligence and results in long-term problems, you should engage legal counsel with a dental malpractice specialty.
If you have lost teeth, suffer chronic pain, have partial paralysis of your lips or face, have lost your ability to taste, or have developed an infection or disease worsened by your dentist’s inattention, you deserve significant damages. You are entitled to be reimbursed not only for your physical and emotional pain, but for any and all fees you have paid for reparative dental or medical work and all related charges. If your dentist’s conduct has been especially heinous, you may also be entitled to punitive damages.