Most of us have no idea what our dentist is doing when they’re poking and prodding the inside of our mouth. Even when they try to explain why we need a procedure done, we often take their word for it because we have so little knowledge of what goes into our dental health beyond brushing and flossing.
However, dentists and dental specialists like orthodontists, periodontists and other professionals can and do make serious errors that can leave a patient with complications, injuries, long-term pain and suffering and sometimes prove to be fatal.
Dentists, like other health care professionals, owe their patients the accepted standard of care. They’re also required to get a patient’s consent (or that of their parent or guardian) before performing a procedure.
Examples of dental malpractice – and its outcomes
Just as with medical malpractice, dental malpractice can involve negligence or mistakes in performing a procedure, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis and treatment and sometimes misconduct. The last too often involves sexual assault of a patient while they’re under sedation.
Among the more common serious types and outcomes of dental malpractice are:
- Anesthesia errors
- Nerve injuries
- Jaw, chin, lip and tongue injuries
- Permanent loss of taste
- Unnecessary tooth extraction (or extraction of the wrong tooth)
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders
Some errors, particularly those involving anesthesia or failure to diagnose oral cancer, can result in death.
How do you know if you are the victim of malpractice?
It can be difficult to determine when a problem is indeed the result of dental malpractice. If your child’s teeth don’t turn out the way you’d like after their braces come off, that likely doesn’t rise to the level of malpractice. However, if a dentist didn’t provide a reasonable standard of care, failed to obtain consent or engaged in misconduct and you suffered harm as a result, you may have a malpractice case.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of dental malpractice, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to determine what your best course of action is to obtain justice and compensation.