Failure to Treat Periodontal Disease Leads to Brain Abscess

Does failure to prescribe antibiotics for a periodontal infection constitute dental malpractice?

For most of us, dental care is routine and rarely results in serious medical issues. Nonetheless, there are instances when patients suffer severe consequences because of a dental problem or inadequate dental care. If you have suffered serious repercussions from dental negligence, you should confer with a skilled malpractice attorney who specializes in dental malpractice.

Case in Point

A recent dental malpractice case involves a 47-year old female patient who had used the same general dentist for decades. She had an ongoing problem with periodontal disease that worsened over time. When her periodontal pockets deepened about four years ago, resulting in increased vertical bone loss, her general dentist referred her to a periodontist. Thereafter the patient went to the periodontist every 3 months for scaling and curettage procedures; she also underwent two pocket-reduction procedures.

Over the period of treatment, the patient periodically experienced a discharge of pus from various places in her gums. She continued her regimen of flossing daily and brushing twice a day and always reported any purulent discharge to the periodontist. Though he prescribed antibacterial rinses, he never prescribed oral antibiotics.

During her last visit, the periodontist observed the active discharge of pus and his hygienist noted many deep pockets (6 to 8 mm) in the patient’s mouth. The periodontist decided to do a deep scaling and curettage with the patient under local anesthesia, after which she was sent home and advised to return for a follow-up visit in a month.

The Crisis

About a week later the patient experienced the first seizure of her life. Suffering an altered state of consciousness, she was taken to a regional medical center to be evaluated. The neurological testing showed that there was an accumulation of intracranial fluid composed of either blood or pus, and she underwent an emergency craniotomy. A substantial quantity of pus, determined to be the result of a brain abscess, was drained. The discharge was cultured, analyzed, and found to be Treponema denticola, a bacterial species almost always found in the mouth, commonly contained in periodontal lesions.

The Aftermath

After the surgery, the patient was administered intravenous antibiotics and spent more than two weeks in the hospital. Subsequently, she had to undergo a month of physical and occupational rehabilitation. The rehab was necessary not only because of the surgical intervention, but because the abscess had impacted her formerly healthy brain tissue.

Although the patient recovered, she was left with some cognitive loss and with serious balance issues that kept her from returning to her previous career as a wedding photographer. Now working at more sedentary jobs, she has loss a sizeable portion of her income as a result. The patient’s lawsuit was settled out of court.

If you have suffered because of the negligence of a dentist or a failed dental procedure, you have every right to recoup your medical expenses, loss wages and damages for your pain and suffering. It is essential that you choose an experienced, skilled attorney who specializes in dental malpractice to fight vigorously so that receive the compensation you deserve.

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.