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Exploring the Issue of Dental Malpractice?

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Exploring the Issue of Dental Malpractice?

Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Serving Victims of Dental Malpractice in Chicago

Malpractice cases are not limited to medical physicians. Dentists are equally accountable for their treatments, and they are required to provide their patients with the expected standard of care. When a dentist, orthodontist, periodontist, or orthodontic surgeon injures a patient by deviating from that standard, he or she is liable for injuries caused.

It is important that patients understand what constitutes dental malpractice, and what steps they must take to file a claim against a dental professional. Most importantly, anyone who suspects they are the victim of dental malpractice should contact a dental malpractice lawyer from Malman Law for a free case evaluation.

Examining the Dentist’s Duty of Care

All dental professionals, including hygienists, are required to provide patients with a standard duty of care. This duty reflects the acceptable standard by others practicing in the same field of dental care, and compares the negligent dentist’s actions against that of a prudent, competent dentist. The “duty” is the legal standard that determines if the dentist was negligent at the time of your injury.

Furthermore, it must be established that the victim (plaintiff) was a patient of the dentist (defendant). Establishing a dentist-patient relationship is as simple as providing receipts or proving the victim was a patient at the time of the injury.

The Breach of Professional Duty

Once the duty of care is established, and the patient’s relationship with the dentist established, the breach of duty applies. If the dental professional deviated from the required standard of competent care, then he or she may be liable for injuries. However, a deviation from the expected standard is different from a poor outcome.

While an unfortunate outcome is unexpected and disappointing, that does not automatically mean that the dental professional breached his or her standard duty.

Dental medicine, like other forms of medical care, is not an exact science. Therefore, there are no guarantees that a treatment will succeed or prevent complications in the future. However, if the dentist apparently breached his or her standard of care, holding them accountable is done through malpractice.

To establish that a breach occurred, an attorney typically hires a dental expert to testify and show how the dental professional breached his or her duty to the patient.


The most important factor to establish after breach of duty and owed duty of care is causation. Even if a dentist breaches his or her duty, if no injuries or damages occur, there is no valid case. Therefore, patients must show that the dentist’s breach caused their injuries, and they suffered damages (financial costs, pain, and suffering, and so forth) as a result.

Most Common Instances of Dental Malpractice and How They Occur

Dental injuries and accidents are common. While not as common as medical malpractice and errors, the fact remains that dental professionals cause injuries or deaths annually too.

Dental Extractions

Dental extractions are complicated and dangerous procedures. They involve the dentist removing a tooth whether it is due to infection, compaction, or another medical reason. With these extractions, injuries can include:

  • Infection
  • Severed Nerve
  • Sinus Perforation
  • Bur Fracture
  • Mandibular Fractures

Endodontic Procedures

Endodontists are professionals who perform oral surgical procedures, such as root canals and specialty procedures handling infections and diseases of the teeth and tissues.

These specialized procedures have associated risks, and while those risks are not necessarily malpractice, injuries can occur if the endodontist is not careful.

Some common injuries that occur from these procedures include:

  • Infection – Including brain abscesses, osteomyelitis, and other life-threatening infections
  • Broken Instruments in the Canal
  • Sinus Perforations
  • Air Embolisms
  • Nerve Damage

Dental Implants and Injuries

Dental implants are designed to restore a patient’s smile, replace missing teeth, and offer permanent solutions for those who do not want dentures. However, they are complicated procedures – much more complex than patients might realize.

While complications exist with this type of procedure, there are also injuries that might occur, including:

  • Postoperative infections of the jaw bone
  • Implants placed on nerves
  • Unrestorable implants due to bone degeneration
  • Implant loss
  • Fractured jaws

These injuries are more common with regular dentists performing the procedures than periodontists (dental professionals with additional training).

Crown and Bridge Treatments

Crowns and bridges are used to fill in gaps of missing teeth or teeth lost due to injury and infection. Injuries are not as common with this procedure, but when a dentist is negligent, a patient can suffer costly repairs and injuries, including:

  • Damage to existing teeth
  • Poor occlusion
  • Open margins
  • Overhanging restorations
  • Full mouth reconstructions

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is a serious infection of the gums and underlying tissues. A dentist should catch this disease early before it has a chance to progress. If the patient continues with frequent check-ups and screenings, their dentist will detect periodontal disease during an annual checkup.

Common injuries and cases associated with this disease include:

  • Failure to diagnose
  • Failure to treat

If the dentist rarely probes for the disease or never takes routine x-rays, it is likely they will miss the periodontal disease and fail to address it – which could result in a severe infection or complete tooth loss.

Negligence in Orthodontics

Orthodontic treatments typically include braces and re-alignments of the teeth. Sometimes these injuries can result in tooth loss, root damage, nerve damage, unnecessary pain, and TMJ injuries.

Orthodontic procedures are costly; therefore, when an orthodontist is negligent, patients experience excessive out-of-pocket costs that may be unnecessary.

Dental Anesthesia and Complications

Extensive dental procedures or procedures on young children can lead to complications and injuries. When the dentist fails to inform patients, receive consent, monitor the patient under anesthesia, or review the patient’s history for possible interactions, serious injuries occur.

Common injuries include:

  • Hypoxic brain injury
  • Respiratory issues
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death

Dental Infections

The mouth is full of bacteria, and when a dental office does not properly sterilize or take measures to prevent infection, severe injuries can occur. Infections can be life-threatening and lead to deadly brain abscesses. They can also lead to sepsis, a fatal infection that causes the body’s organs to fail slowly.

Dental Injections and Injuries

Injections are often used to numb the area so that the patient does not feel pain while receiving routine and extensive dental work.

Injuries can occur when injections are done improperly, including permanent nerve damage. While dentists might know they struck a nerve with their injection, if they do not withdraw and reinject elsewhere, permanent injury might occur. Also, the dentist should follow up with the patient, seek treatment, and refer them to specialists if needed.

Adverse Drug Reactions

Several medications might be used in dental procedures. When a drug reaction occurs, it is typically a drug contraindicated on the patient’s medical history. These can result in fatalities, especially if dangerous interactions occur.

Failure to Diagnose Oral Cancers

Oral cancers are tragic. Sadly, a dentist who fails to diagnose or misdiagnosis oral cancer may be negligent. If the oral cancer was easily identified, but the dental professional missed the early warning signs, and another dentist would have easily diagnosed it, then that dental professional may be liable.

TMJ or Other Orthognathic Injuries

TMJ surgeries are typically corrective in nature, but if done improperly, they can lead to serious, debilitating injuries. Some patients may be unable to open their mouths, chew, or function. Typically, these injuries occur under the care of an oral surgeon.

Legal Remedies with Dental Injuries Occur

When a dentist injures a patient, the patient has several legal remedies at his or her disposal.  These solutions include:

  • Filing an official complaint with the state dental board. All patients should submit a complaint to the state dental board. The complaint forces the board to investigate the injury and incident. If the investigation determines the dental professional was negligent, they may receive a citation. Serious injuries or malpractice could result in a revocation of their license.
  • Filing a dental malpractice lawsuit. Medical malpractice attorneys handle dental lawsuits. These are not cases that a victim can handle alone. Instead, an attorney is required to conduct depositions, subpoena records, and conduct a thorough investigation.

Consult with a Malpractice Attorney Regarding Your Dental Injuries or Complications

If your injuries are severe, then it might be in your best interest to speak with a malpractice lawyer.

The injury law team at Malman Law can review your case, and we can also help file a complaint with the state dentistry board. Furthermore, we will examine records and identify which parties might be to blame for your injuries. Sometimes the injuries occur from a dental office staff member, such as a hygienist, while other times the dentist is responsible.

Our malpractice attorneys will then help determine how much your case is worth. We will aggressively seek out the compensation you deserve, and hold the negligent dentist accountable for his or her actions. Furthermore, your lawsuit may prevent others from suffering similar injuries – forcing the dentist to be more aware of how their actions affect their patients. Schedule a consultation with an attorney from Malman Law today by calling or contacting us online.

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