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Can I File Dental Malpractice?

April 25, 2019 in

Dental care is an important part of maintaining your overall health. For the most part, good dental care involves obtaining regular cleanings, x-rays, and promoting quality brushing and flossing techniques at home. Sometimes, however, dental care becomes a bit more serious, including more involved techniques such as tooth extraction and cavity filling, or oral surgery like root canals and implants.

As with any other medical procedure, however, dental care has the potential to go wrong. If you experience injury due to a dental procedure that did not go as expected, you may wonder about your potential course of action. Can you file a dental malpractice lawsuit to recover damages you suffered as a result of your injury?

Dentists Risk Liability

Just like other medical professionals such as doctors and surgeons, dentists, oral surgeons, and orthodontists risk liability for faulty procedures each time they care for a patient. If a dentist’s medical negligence results in injury to a patient, the patient may file a malpractice lawsuit to recover damages. However, the patient must ensure the presence of four essential elements of a malpractice case.

The four essential elements of a dental malpractice case are:

  • A dentist-patient relationship. Usually, the dentist-patient relationship is easy to prove. If you received treatment at a dental office, you most likely retain the status of a patient. In most cases, any dental procedure occurs in accordance with multiple documents proving the nature of the procedure, your agreement, and the dentist’s role.
  • An appropriate medical standard of care exists for the procedure. Again, this element is usually fairly simple to prove. However, a medical expert must testify as to the appropriate standard, and the actions expected of the dentist in the situation. The medical expert must have experience in the particular procedure in question to lend expertise regarding the appropriate actions expected of the dentist.
  • The dentist breached the standard of care. This element coincides with the last, in that a medical expert must testify that the dentist did not act in a manner expected under the standard of care. You must show the steps the standard of care required the dentist to take, the steps the dentist took instead, and how his or her action led to a negative outcome.
  • The breach of care caused injury to the patient. Even if the dentist failed to adhere to the standard of care, you cannot receive compensation if the actions did not injure you. Thus, you must prove that the negligence caused you an injury, which resulted in damages. A medical expert’s testimony usually serves to link your injuries to the actions of the dentist.

If you believe these four elements of a dental malpractice case are present and can help you prove a dentist caused you injury, you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit for dental malpractice.

Common Dental Malpractice Cases

As with medical malpractice, certain types of dental cases prove more likely to lead to malpractice. Common situations that form the basis for dental malpractice cases include:

  • Failure to diagnose conditions that pose a health risk to the patient, such as TMJ or oral cancer
  • Wrongful extraction of teeth, including extraction of the wrong tooth or extraction from the wrong patient
  • Failure to treat incidents resulting from dental care, such as infections
  • Improper administration of anesthesia

In each of these situations, the dentist somehow failed to act according to the standard of care expected of a dentist in the situation. The breach of care resulted in a negative outcome for the patient, whether a missing tooth, worsening of a condition, or mental and physical anguish.

If you or a loved one suffered an injury as the result of negligent dental care, you could receive compensation for any damages incurred. However, it is essential you have all four elements of a dental malpractice lawsuit. Speak with a personal injury attorney regarding your options.