What Is Dental Malpractice?
Dentists are held to a standard of care that is measured by what another dentist of reasonable competence, under similar circumstances, would have done or not done in performing a certain procedure. If a particular dentist breached or deviated from that standard of care, then he or she may be liable for dental malpractice.
In modern times, many dental mistakes can be fixed easily with braces, bridges, veneers and implants. So, simply because your dentist didn’t make your crown look perfect or feel right, it does not necessarily warrant bringing a dental malpractice suit.
In contrast, there are some dental injuries caused by the dentist that are devastating and even life-threatening. The most significant injuries are:
- Dental nerve injuries — Whenever a dentist drills, or removes teeth, he is operating very close to certain nerves that exist within the mouth. A mistake can leave a patient with numbness in the lip, chin and gums, a speech impairment, burning and tingling, loss of taste or even pain in the sinuses, face and up into the eyes:
- Inferior alveolar nerve injury — occurs during wisdom tooth removal, installation of implants or poor root canal
- Trigeminal nerve injury — occurs during root canal
- Lingual nerve injury — occurs during wisdom tooth removal
- Improper installation of implants — If a dentist drills too deeply or at the wrong angle, he can enter your sinus cavity leading to severe infections from the bacteria in your mouth
- Death or injury from negligent administration of anesthesia
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
- Structural damage to the jaw, tongue, chin or lips
- Failure to diagnose cancer in the mouth or tongue region
The other possible series of dental malpractice cases come when a dentist attempts to perform work that he is technically not qualified to do. A general dentist practices in all aspects of the profession. However, he should know his limitations. There are many subspecialties:
- Orthodontist — Corrects malpositioned teeth and deformities
- Endodontist — Handles exposed pulp or root canal treatment
- Periodontist — Deals with gum disease
- Prosthodontist — Restores lost or missing teeth with dentures, bridges and implants
- Oral surgeon — Specializes in infections and diseases of the teeth, jaw and surrounding bones
Was Your Dental Professional Incompetent?
If you suspect that your dentist was incompetent or was negligent in your care or treatment, promptly contact a dental malpractice attorney immediately. These actions fall under medical malpractice law and the time limits are shorter than general negligence. Only the experience and knowledge of a dental malpractice attorney can assure you that your claim will be handled in a professional manner.