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Dental Malpractice

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Americans spend nearly $42 billion a year on their teeth

Dental Malpractice

The legal definition of dental malpractice varies from state to state. Dental malpractice is a form of malpractice dealing with injuries that occur during a visit to the dentist . Generally speaking, in order for someone to have a viable dental malpractice claim, the dental provider must have committed an act that no other reasonable prudent oral healthcare provider would have committed during the same time period, and that act must have caused significant injury.

While malpractice suits do not necessarily claim that the dentist intentionally harmed the patient, in some cases a dentist or dental professional can be found guilty of intentionally injuring or committing improper conduct (molesting a patient while he/she is under sedation) against a patient.

Dentists and oral surgeons are considered health care professionals and must provide a certain standard of care when providing dental services to a patient. Just like medical doctors, dentists and oral surgeons have a duty to uphold that standard of care in his/her specialty. A breach of this duty, resulting in injury to a patient can result in what is generally referred to as dental malpractice or dental negligence.

CAN A DENTIST BE SUED?

Yes. A Dentist is a health care professional providing care for a patient, as does a physician. There is a duty imposed upon the Dentist to practice dentistry at the standard of care in his/her specialty. A breach of this duty that results in injury to the patient can result in a lawsuit against the dentist. This is generally referred to as "Dental malpractice".

Types of Dental Injuries Include:

  • Nerve injury to the jaw, lips, and tongue
  • Anesthesia injury - this also includes anesthesia deaths
  • Injury to the bones of the jaw
  • Injury to the teeth or gums from a faulty crown or bridge
  • TMJ resulting from orthodontic treatment
  • Injuries or infection resulting from use of dental products

Types of Dental Malpractice

Dental malpractice cases can be brought against dentists, orthodontists, periodontists, and oral surgeons for any of the following reasons:

  • Permanent or temporary injuries to the nerves of the tongue, jaw, chin and lips, including lingual nerve injury (tongue), inferior alveolar nerve damage (lips, chin and jaw);
  • Permanent or temporary numbness or loss of taste sensation;
  • Permanent or temporary structural injuries to the tongue, jaw, chin or lips;
  • Wrongful death resulting from dental procedures;
  • Injuries or death caused by improper or negligent administration of anesthesia;
  • Failure to detect or diagnose oral cancer;
  • Failure to examine for or diagnose periodontal disease;
  • Injuries associated with root canals using Sargenti Paste (N2);
  • Failed or improper crown and bridge prostheses;
  • Treatment exceeding the scope of consent;
  • Injuries from improper treatment by unlicensed dentists;
  • Dental product liability claims or improper use of dental devices, including dental lasers and silicone implants;
  • Failed dental surgery or oral surgery;
  • Injuries associated with extractions or needlessly extracted teeth;
  • Failed or improper orthodontic procedures on adults and children.

Dental Malpractice Lawsuits

In order to prove that a dentist is guilty of dental malpractice, the patient must prove that the dentist acted in a negligent manner and that the negligence resulted in the injury to the patient. Four elements need to be proven for a dental negligence lawsuit to be successful:

  • Duty of care - the dentist had an obligation to provide competent dental care
  • Breach of duty - the dentist did not provide competent dental care
  • Injury - the patient was injured while undergoing dental procedures
  • Proximate cause - the patient's injury was a result of the dentist's breach of duty

The statute of limitations (how long you have to file a dental malpractice claim after you have been harmed) varies from state to state. If you do not bring legal action prior to the statute's expiration, your claim is barred. Additionally, most states have tort claim statutes. These statutes require formal notification of a public hospital or government-employed healthcare provider regarding your claim in a short period of time after the suspected injury. Sometimes you have as little as 180 days to make this notification. If you or a loved one has been harmed by dental malpractice, you may want to contact a dental malpractice lawyer for more information.

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