Dental malpractice is more common than you think. While most dental mistakes are small and can be corrected, some are bigger and require more than a simple fix. It is important that everyone gets the best dental care possible and can trust their dental professional to do that. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, one out of every seven malpractices cases are dental. To stay informed on the topic, here are four critical areas of dental malpractice everyone should understand.
What is Dental Malpractice?
The main point of malpractice is that there has been some sort of negligence. This does not mean that mistakes were made intentionally, but rather that a mistake was made. Dentists and other staff are trained on proper procedures in dental care. Not following those guidelines or making a mistake that leads to bigger problems or pain and suffering is a big problem.
A dentist should perform their best work and always place the needs of the patient at the top of their priority list. For dental malpractice specifically, it may look like:
- Ignoring a patient’s wishes
- Failing to diagnose or treat certain dental conditions
- Intentional misconduct by the dentist or staff
- Delaying or denying treatment or oral disease
- Injuries resulting from dental work
- Negligent dental work
Each of these can cause extra pain or unnecessary suffering by a patient.
The Importance of Consent
As with all medical procedures, consent must be obtained before any dental treatments are done. There are minor procedures that can be done under a routine visit, but anything beyond those would count as a dental procedure. It is important to read all the initial paperwork signed when becoming a patient at a dental office. This paperwork will specify what you give permission for the dental staff to do and is assumed consent under the acceptable standard of dental care for that office.
The reason that consent is so important is because patients have a right to oversee their own care. Staff need to know that you have been informed of all risks involved with each procedure for their own protection too. Plus, talking to a patient about the risks and getting consent gives them a time to update your medical history with any important information. If someone knows they do not tolerate certain products or medications well, the staff needs to adjust the treatment plans accordingly.
If a dentist does an expensive procedure that a patient did not consent to, it could be grounds for a dental malpractice case. This is especially true if there was any type of mistake made or permanent damage done.
Common Dental Malpractice Causes
The mouth has a lot of nerves and bones that work together so a person can talk, chew, and breathe correctly. When there are any damages done to these areas, it seriously impacts a person’s life. With so many nerves, mistakes can also lead to a life of pain. It does not take a dramatic mistake to cause a problem either. Some common dental malpractice cases are:
- Nerve damage from injections and improper drilling
- TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders
- Improper use of dental tools, including large equipment
- Problems with anesthesia administration
- Neglected, delayed, or incorrect diagnosis or treatment of dental/oral problems, including oral cancer
- Permanent loss of sensation or structural injuries in any area of the mouth
- Complications from performed dental work
- Negligence to consider relevant medical history in procedures
- Unnecessary dental work
- Wrongful death from a dental procedure of oral surgery
This is not an exhaustive list of what can be tried as a dental malpractice case, just what is most common. There are incidents that can happen outside this list that have a dentist causing pain and suffering in a patient. It is always best to consult with a dental malpractice attorney if you think you have a case.
Important Qualifications for Dental Malpractice
The most important thing to know about dental malpractice is that the burden of proof is on the patient. Simply not liking a result of a procedure is not grounds for a lawsuit. You must be able to prove that there was some sort of negligence or intentional act that caused the damage. It also needs to be an act that is outside the standards of acceptable care by an oral health provider. That means no other dental professional would have done the same thing. If a situation does not mean these criteria, it will not qualify as a malpractice case.
Avoiding Dental Malpractice
The best steps to take to avoid a dental malpractice suit are to do your research and talk to other patients. There are plenty of resources online to help read reviews or ask on social media about other people’s experiences with a dental professional. Sometimes mistakes are still made with even the most reputable doctors though. If you think that you have a dental malpractice case, consult a lawyer in your areas. A dental malpractice lawyer in NYC is going to have different experiences and laws to know than one in Florida. Most will even give you a free consultation on your case. Since some states of a limited time to file a case, do not wait too long to ask questions.