Going to the dentist for a routine check-up or procedure can be nerve-wracking for many people. In fact, it’s been estimated that 9% to 15% of Americans avoid the dentist because of anxiety and fear (which works out to around 30 to 40 million people).
No one enjoys the application of drill to tooth. Even when everything goes exactly right and the results are cleaner, healthier teeth, it’s not exactly a comfortable situation.
Now imagine if something went horribly wrong with that supposedly routine procedure?
Even simple mistakes can lead to physical pain and injury and even some emotional and psychological harm.
While major dental accidents are rare occurrences, they still happen. In fact, this has been such a large concern that the definition of dental malpractice has grown to encompass more and more incidents.
Did you know, for example, that ill-fitting dentures or implants can possibly warrant a legitimate claim?
Dental malpractice is often associated with unnecessary dental work being done, carelessness of the dentist, and the failure to diagnose, properly treat, or refer to a specialist. But there are even more situations that could require legal intervention.
The list below touches on the most common issues:
Failure to Diagnose Issues and Diseases
Your dentist is responsible for examining and identifying possible oral issues and diseases, such as tooth decay and gum disease – things that will worsen if not promptly treated. Such oversight can result in lost teeth and the degradation of the jaw bone.
You dentist should also be screening for oral cancer. This has become a mandatory part of a routine dental examination because it can turn fatal if not treated early.
These are all critical issues, and if they are misdiagnosed – or are completely missed – then it can be considered malpractice.
Failure to Listen, Communicate and Correct Treatment
A dentist who carelessly treats or provides inadequate treatment for a patient and is then not available to listen to his or her patient’s concerns can be charged with dental malpractice under the context of patient abandonment.
Most people consider a tooth extraction a simple, routine procedure, and, for the most part, it is. Dentists can complete them without much trouble.
However, some extractions can be more difficult. In these cases, there is a higher risk of accidents and complications, the most common of which is nerve damage. These injuries can be debilitating, which is why they are cause for legal action.
Despite how complicated a tooth extraction may be, there is no reason that a dentist should cause nerve or facial damage from a routine procedure.
Problems with Anesthesia
Anesthesia is used in a wide range of dental procedure. However, some patients are allergic to certain forms of anesthesia, which can lead to extreme and dangerous reactions, complications and lingual nerve damage. These reactions can even be deadly in the worst-case scenarios. Anesthesia should only be administered by someone who knows exactly what they’re doing.
A patient goes to the dentist expecting one kind of procedure to treat his or her dental issue. But, when a dentist continues to conduct an unnecessary procedure that results in pain, discomfort and a lower quality of life, it is considered dental malpractice.
One of the most common unnecessary procedures is the extraction of teeth, but there are many other cases that may fit in this category.
Lack of Employee Oversight
The dentist isn’t the only one liable for committing dental malpractice. If there is a lack of care, inadequate or inappropriate treatment, negligence or misdiagnosis by the dental office staff, the dentist can be guilty of the lack of training of his or her employees.
Improperly Fitted Implants, Bridges, Crowns and Dentures
Dental appliances that are used to replace missing teeth or to restore the functionality of the teeth or even to improve confidence and beautify smiles often require a more serious procedure.
When these dental appliances don’t fit right or are too tight or too loose, it can diminish what they were designed to fix in the first place. In that case, you may have a situation that involves dental implant malpractice.
Lack of Informed Consent
Some dentists have patients sign consent forms to acknowledge the risks of the upcoming procedure and to help explain the expected procedure to the patient. When a dentist goes ahead and does an additional procedure without the patient’s knowledge of it, severe, unnecessary damage, pain and injury can result. This is called a violation of informed consent.
Failure to Refer to a Specialist
A general dentist who fails to refer a patient to the appropriate dental specialist who can best treat the oral health condition can be sued for dental malpractice. This is especially true if the lack of referral results in the worsening of the condition, or patient injury, or death.
Infections After Treatment or from Unsterilized Equipment
Invasive dental procedures involve the risk of post-op infection. Dentists who fail to address and treat an infection caused from a procedure puts the patient’s oral and physical health at risk. Similarly, the use of dirty, contaminated dental equipment can also expose the patient to potentially serious infections.
Besides dental malpractice accidents that result in the death of a patient, the second worst outcome of an accident is permanent damage to the patient in the form of paralysis of nerves in the mouth, face, neck and head.
If you or someone you know has experienced one of these common dental malpractice issues and you have sufficient proof and your claim meets the necessary requirements, contact us to reach a knowledgeable New York dental malpractice lawyer at Chianese & Reilly Law P.C. for a consultation.
We have a long history of helping clients through their dental malpractice lawsuits and we strive to bring about the best result possible.