Dentists, like other types of doctors, owe their patients a duty of care that meets appropriate standards of practice. This field of medicine includes dentists, oral surgeons—including endodontists and oral and maxiofacial surgeons—and dental hygienists. They are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of patients from performing a simple extraction to mandible surgery.
In order to provide the best possible care, comprehensive documentation of communication between patients and doctors needs to be recorded. Informed consent should be obtained for any and all procedures, along with a clear record of the patient’s health history. If an elderly patient has advanced osteoporosis (bone loss) for example, he or she would not be a good candidate for tooth implants. A comprehensive treatment plan that explains reasons for treatment should be developed and notes kept of each visit and procedure.
Categories of Dental Malpractice
Medical malpractice claims can arise when a dentist or another oral health care provider breaches the standard of care and mistakes are made. This can happen in a variety of ways:
- Failure to properly diagnose and treat medical conditions.
- Failure to have the appropriate licenses for particular procedures.
- Failure to give information so that a patient can give informed consent.
- Performing unnecessary procedures, including procedures on the wrong tooth.
- Performing procedures with negligence.
- Failure to properly administer anesthesia.
The Most Common Mistakes in Dentistry
The most common dental mistakes include failure to diagnose or misdiagnosing a dental condition; extracting the wrong teeth; infections caused by unsterile equipment; root canal errors; causing irreparable damage to a patient’s teeth, gums, sinuses, causing serious nerve damage; a failed bridge or crown procedure; permanent loss of taste; numbness in the tongue or lips; and pain and clicking in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
Serious Adverse Effects of Dental Malpractice
One of the potential complications of oral surgery is a jaw fracture. Other complications can be sinus perforation, infections, bleeding, nerve damage from drilling too deep, and even the contraction of HIV and hepatitis. For instance, if, during a root canal, an instrument breaks off and lodges itself inside a tooth or root, the patient may have to be referred to an oral surgeon and suffer needless pain and expense.
Complications from wisdom teeth extraction can cause nerve damage, loss of taste, and uncontrolled bleeding. If dentures are not made and set properly, patients can develop serious problems with eating and have disturbing appearance issues. Proper diagnosis of dental perforation is necessary to avoid a bur or tooth fragment from perforating the patient’s sinuses, causing infection and potentially leading to hospitalization or even death.
Complications of Dental Surgeries
During a rare study and review of approximately 250 medical legal cases involving the dental profession over a twelve-year period in the early 2000s, a dental expert found twelve fatalities and 230 serious injuries. These injuries included fractured mandibles, sinus perforations, non-restorable implants, nerve damage, fractured jaw, root resorption, TMJ injuries, adverse drug reactions, failure to timely diagnose and treat infections, and drill injuries among others. Serious nerve damage can result from mistakes during tooth extractions, root canals, and periodontal grafting. Tingling, pain, loss of taste, numbness and even paralysis can also happen.
Statistics of Dentistry Malpractice
One out of every seven medical malpractices cases directly involved a dental professional according to data collected by the National Practitioner Data Bank in the US between 2006 and 2016. Among roughly 20,000 dentists, there were over 16,000 medical malpractice payments and close to 14,000 adverse actions (formal reports not related to medical malpractice) filed against them. Among 3000+ dental hygienists, there were approximately fifty malpractice payments and over 3500 adverse action reports. These figures are only about the paid claims and don’t represent the much higher figure of actual claims filed.
Leading the dentistry fields in malpractice claims (with a figure of 28 percent) is the field of prosthodontics: tooth replacements that often require extraction; this includes bridges and dentures. The second dentistry field is endodontics with 17 percent of claims. This dental area deals with tooth surface, root, and pulp and carried with it the risk of affecting tooth nerves. The third field is restorative dentistry at 16 percent. This area of dentistry encompasses fillings, veneers, and similar treatments reflecting problems related to cavities.
It’s important to note that dental mistakes may result in horrific pain and suffering. Any corrective procedures required to repair damage caused by such mistakes—loss of function, taste, smell, and physical deformities affecting one’s self-esteem—may result in additional pain and suffering.
Have You Suffered from Dental Malpractice from a Florida Dentist?
If you or a loved one has been the victim malpractice by a Florida dentist or other dental professional, please contact our office to speak with an experienced Florida dental malpractice attorney.