Dental malpractice cases can arise out of a wide variety of situations. This blog will discuss some of the most common dental malpractice issues that can lead to claims and lawsuits against dental professionals.
If you’ve been the victim of dental malpractice, a personal injury lawyer from KJT Law Group can help you today.
Examples of Common Mistakes That Can Lead to Dental Negligence Lawsuits
The inside of the mouth is a small area with a lot of vital parts. When a dentist tries to perform work on the teeth or gums, even a minor mistake could cause damage to the teeth, tongue, inner mouth tissue, jaw, or lips. Here are some of the more common mistakes that can constitute dental malpractice:
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a dental condition
- Administering the wrong dental treatment
- Anesthesia mistakes or inattentive administration of anesthesia
- Loss of sensation or taste, which can be temporary or permanent
- Injury to the structure of the jaw, tongue, lips, or chin. This injury could be temporary or permanent
- Injury to nerves from injections for dental procedures
- Broken jaw caused by a dental procedure
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder resulting from dental negligence
- Injury caused by the incorrect use of equipment or tools
- Failure to diagnose oral diseases, including periodontal disease and cancer
- Extraction of the wrong teeth or more teeth than necessary
- Mistakes performed during bridge and crown procedures
- Failure to check the patient’s medical and dental history
Unfortunately, this is not an all-inclusive list. If you suffered a complication after a dental procedure, had a delayed or missed diagnosis, or had another adverse result because of a mistake made by a dental professional, you might have a case for dental malpractice.
Dental malpractice claims are more common than you might think. The Annenberg Center for Health Journalism at USC says that malpractice cases against dental professionals make up one out of every seven medical malpractice cases.
Anesthesia Problems and Dental Malpractice
Anesthesia complications are a common reason for dental malpractice claims. Often, dental anesthesia problems arise because the patient has a drug interaction between the general anesthesia drugs and other medications they already take. Another reason would be that the patient is not a good candidate for specific general anesthesia drugs because of an underlying medical condition. A careful check of the patient’s medical history could have revealed this information.
Local dental anesthesia can also cause complications, including:
- Allergic reactions to the local anesthetic
- Jaw damage
- Breakage of the needle
- Blood clots (hematomas)
- Tissue necrosis (the tissue dies because of tissue injury or chemicals)
Dental negligence claims are not limited to mistakes in the performance of dental procedures or diagnostic or procedure errors. The anesthesia could be the sole reason for your claim.
Informed Consent and Dental Procedures
Malpractice in dentistry can include situations in which the dentist performs procedures without your informed consent. Informed consent means that you received an explanation of the risks, benefits, and potential complications of the procedure. It can be malpractice for a dentist to perform services that are beyond the scope of the consent you gave.
For example, if you consented to the extraction of an impacted wisdom tooth under general anesthesia, and you woke up to discover that the dentist had removed six more of your teeth, the dentist exceeded the scope of your consent.
Even if the dentist or oral surgeon discovered a severe problem like oral cancer, they should have completed the wisdom tooth removal and performed treatment for the later-discovered condition at a later time, with your consent.
How To Tell if Your Adverse Result Was Dental Malpractice
Sometimes, despite the best efforts of the dentist, the patient will experience an undesired result. Some decay is too far gone to repair. Some teeth cannot be saved. Not all dental treatment errors are malpractice. So, how can you tell if the less-than-optimal result you experienced was a result of dental malpractice?
A person might have a malpractice claim against the dentist if the patient’s adverse result happened because of the dentist’s:
- Delay in diagnosing or treating oral diseases like periodontal disease or oral cancer
- Careless or incompetent dental work
- Failure to diagnose or treat a significant oral disease
- Misdiagnosing of, or administering the wrong treatment for, a dental condition
If the dentist engaged in misconduct intentionally, their conduct could be dental malpractice.
Recoverable Monetary Damages in Dental Malpractice Cases
If you have a dental malpractice claim, the compensation you might be able to recover will depend on the facts of your situation. You might be able to pursue monetary damages for your additional dental and medical bills to repeat, treat, and repair the condition and harm. You most likely cannot recover the cost of the original dental procedure.
Also, lost wages can be included in your claim if you missed work without pay while recuperating and undergoing additional procedures. Pain and suffering damages for your physical discomfort and emotional distress can be a substantial portion of your dental malpractice claim.
What You Can Do if You Were a Victim of Dental Malpractice
You will want to talk to a dental malpractice attorney before you run out of time to take legal action. CCP § 340.5 is the California statute of limitations that sets the filing deadline in dental malpractice lawsuits at 3 years. After the filing deadline expires, the law can forever bar you from holding the at-fault party financially accountable for the harm they caused.