Failure to Diagnose Periodontal Disease

What are the dangers of not promptly diagnosing gum disease?

About half of all Americans have some form of periodontal disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Over 64.7 million Americans have mild, moderate, or severe periodontal disease.  Among older adults, instances of periodontal disease jump to 70 percent. When diagnosed in its early forms, periodontal disease can be treated and prevented from worsening.  If a dentist fails to identify periodontal disease or does not inform patients of their condition, it could be grounds for a dental malpractice action.

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease involves infection to the structures surrounding the teeth.  Involved parts of the mouth could include the gums, the cementum, bone, and periodontal ligament.  Periodontal disease typically starts in the gums with the condition known as gingivitis.  If left untreated, the supporting tissue and potentially the bone can become involved.

In addition to threatening the health of your teeth and jaw, periodontal disease has been linked to a number of serious health conditions.  Researchers today have uncovered possible connections between gum disease and the following disorders: stroke, heart disease, premature births, diabetes, and respiratory diseases.

Dentists Should Always Check for Periodontal Disease

Given the prevalence of periodontal disease in the general population, it is the duty of dentists to look for gum disease at every checkup.  Dentists should closely examine the gum tissue and structures around each tooth.  A tool called a periodontal probe can be used to probe the gums along the base of each tooth.  If a probe can be inserted past a specific number of millimeters, it indicates gum disease or worsening of already existing gum disease.

Untreated gum disease could lead to loss of your teeth and jaw bone erosion.  If periodontal disease is detected, your dentist should inform you of the stage and your treatment options.  For mid stage gum disease, dentists can use a scaling and root planning procedure to scrape away plaque. Oral antibiotics could additionally be used.  When gum disease advances, it will require treatment by a specialist in gum disease.

Should your dentist fail to examine your gums for disease or only does regular cleanings when other treatment or referrals are called for, thus allowing the disease to go on undetected, he or she could be liable in a medical malpractice action.  You could potentially receive compensation for your periodontal related injuries, including coverage for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

About the Author
Of all the different areas in medical malpractice, it is podiatry malpractice that has had a particular interest to me. With 42 years practicing law and representing hundreds of victims of malpractice, I have created a law practice in which my clients are comfortable knowing that their case is being handled with my personal attention, in the most professional manner, and without unreasonable delays.