When a patient has a dental emergency, such as an impacted tooth, locked jaw or gum pain, it makes it difficult for him or her to think of anything else. That’s because it restricts them from participating in many everyday functional tasks such as talking or eating. While, ideally as patients, we want to be able to get a quick fix for what ails us, when it comes to dental procedures, there’s a lot that can go wrong in trying to do so.
As for dentists, perhaps one of the most common reasons they are sued for malpractice centers around extractions. Whether they are sued because they perforate their patient’s sinuses, fail to properly sterilize the surgical area or fail to educate the patient about wound care, each of these can result in infection, and ultimately a lawsuit for malpractice.
Cases in which a patient’s nerves are cut during a surgery ranks second highest for the reason dentists get sued. While the general expectation is that a dentist would attempt to recover the nerve’s original function if he or she snipped it, this often fails to happen.
Endontic procedures, such as root canals, perhaps carry the third highest risk of patient injury or death. Patients who have this procedure performed risk air embolisms as well as both sinus and nerve perforation. In some cases, this procedure can even result in a brain abscess or osteomyelitis, both of which can cause irreversible damage to an individual’s brain.
Other common reasons dentists get sued are because they cause their patient’s mandibular fractures, fail to properly diagnose them or leave them with lingering TMJ injuries. Poor reactions to anesthesia or drug interactions are also quite common conditions cited for filing lawsuits as well. What wins out over any of these, though, is a dentist’s failure to properly diagnose a patient’s condition.
While it’s unclear as to why it’s the case, general dentists are nearly five times as likely to be sued than oral surgeons are. Perhaps this discrepancy has to do with the added education that oral surgeons complete that general dentists simply do not.
If you’ve been permanently injured or know someone that has died as a result of having had a routine dental procedure performed, a Chicago medical malpractice attorney can help.
Source: Dentistry IQ, “A review of dental negligence,” Crystal Baxter, accessed July 13, 2017