Survey of Dental Negligence and Malpractice

What dental procedures are potentially most dangerous?

An informal study of dental malpractice cases, although based on data from only 242 cases, has uncovered some important information for both dentists and their patients. The researcher, a dental expert who was asked to review cases over more than a decade in order to evaluate them for dental negligence, was charged with finding ways to better educate dental practitioners to avoid mistakes and mishaps.

Dental patient often don’t realize that they have legal recourse if they have experienced poor dental care resulting in personal injury. Like other medical professionals, dentists can be charged with malpractice. When such a situation arises, patients should engage the services of an attorney who specializes in this field of law.

The most common allegations of dental malpractice in the study occurred due to dental extractions. They occurred four times as often under the care of a general dentist than under the care of an oral surgeon. As a matter of fact, in all categories, more allegations of malpractice occurred when general dentists, rather than specialists, performed complex procedures.

Dental procedures with the greatest numbers of negligence accusations were, in order of frequency:

  • Tooth extractions
  • Endodontic procedures
  • Implant procedures
  • Crown and bridge treatments
  • Orthodontics

There were also a smaller number of cases attributed to various other categories, such as broken equipment, improper injections and adverse reactions to anesthesia.

Types of Personal Injuries Suffered in Dental Malpractice Cases

Not surprisingly, injuries suffered by patients varied according to what type of dental procedure they were undergoing. Serious complications due to each specialty are noted below:

Extractions: infections requiring hospitalization, severed nerves, sinus perforations, fractured mandible,

TMJ injuries, extraction of wrong teeth

Endodontic Procedures: instruments left in canals, nerve and sinus perforations, air embolisms, life-threatening infections (4 fatalities and 4 cases of irreversible brain damage)

Implant Procedures: postoperative infection, implants placed in nerves, implant loss, fractured jaw

Crown and Bridge Treatment: overhanging restorations, poor occlusion, open margins

Failure to Treat Periodontal Disease: no routine X-rays taken, no periodontal probings recorded

Orthodontics: root resorption, lost teeth, TMJ injury

Anesthesia Complications: 8 fatalities, 3 of children

Failure to Treat Dental Infections promptly: brain abscesses, septic arthritis, 4 fatalities

Nerve Injuries Due to Dental Injections: temporary or permanent nerve damage to lingual nerve or inferior alveolar nerve

Adverse Drug Reactions: 2 fatalities in 5 cases

Failure to Diagnose Oral Cancer

Interestingly, only 5 percent of the dentists against whom charges were brought were female, a much smaller percentage than that of females in the group as a whole. The researcher postulated that women have better communication skills than men and that therefore the female dentists were better able to explain procedures and risks to their patients, and better able to discuss options once a mistake had been made.

In a great many cases, patients stated that they would never have sued the dentist if they had been treated with more respect and compassion by the dentist and dental staff and if their money had been refunded.

If you have suffered serious personal injury as a result of a dental procedure in New York, you should contact a law firm that specializes in dental malpractice. A skilled and experienced attorney will be able to negotiate (or, if necessary, litigate) to help you 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.