Can You Sue a Dentist for Malpractice?

Can You Sue a Dentist for Malpractice?

Dental visits are supposed to be a routine and necessary part of life, but what if something goes wrong? What if the dentist causes more harm than good? Can you hold them accountable?

The answer is yes, you can sue a dentist for medical malpractice, but it’s important to understand the specifics before you take legal action. Below, we discuss what dental malpractice is and what common types of dental negligence lead to lawsuits.

Dental Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider fails to provide adequate treatment that results in harm or injury to a patient. This can happen in any healthcare facility, including dental offices.

A dentist can be held responsible for medical malpractice if they fail to provide a standard level of care that results in harm or injury to a patient. This can include everything from misdiagnosis to surgical errors.

It’s important to note that a negative outcome or even a mistake does not always constitute malpractice. Thus, you cannot simply pursue compensation and sue your dentist for messing up your teeth. You will need to prove that they acted in a way that other dentists would consider unreasonable or reckless before pursuing a claim.

To make a strong case, you will need to prove that the dentist’s actions deviated from the standard of care. To prove dental malpractice, you will need to show that:

  • The dentist had a duty of care towards you and this duty was breached. This means that the dentist failed to meet the standard of care that a reasonable dentist would provide under similar circumstances.
  • This breach of duty caused you to suffer harm or injury. This can include physical pain, emotional distress, and financial losses.
  • You suffered damages. These damages should be the direct result of the dentist’s actions.

Common Types of Dental Negligence Lawsuits

Some common dental malpractice cases can arise because of errors involving:

  • Anesthesia injection. To complete certain dental procedures, a patient needs to have a local anesthetic to be administered to numb their mouth and prevent pain. However, errors with the anesthesia can lead to nerve damage and other serious injuries. One of the most common local anesthetics is Septocaine, which is a combination of articaine and epinephrine.
  • Anoxic brain injury following anesthesia. An anoxic brain injury occurs when a person’s brain is deprived of oxygen for several minutes; If anesthesia is not properly administered or other issues occur, a person can suffer this type of injury.
  • Full mouth reconstruction. To improve your smile and/or dental health, a patient typically must submit to several dental surgeries and procedures (i.e. root canals, bone grafting, dental implants, dental crown insertion, etc.). Negligence by dental staff during these procedures can lead to serious injuries or death.
  • Jaw surgery. While undergoing jaw surgery, a patient can suffer from a variety of injuries caused by dental negligence.
  • Jaw fracture. Dental negligence can lead to a person’s jaw being fractured. Specifically, your jaw can be fractured if a person improperly uses tools or incorrectly performs a procedure.
  • Oral cancer misdiagnosis. Common types of medical malpractice are misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose. If your dentist fails to diagnose, delays in diagnosing, or misdiagnoses you, you can pursue damages.
  • Tooth extraction or implants. During these procedures, a patient can suffer from nerve damage, bone fractures, infection, or wrongful death if the dentist is negligent.
  • Root canal. To remove diseased material inside your teeth, dentists perform root canals; if performed incorrectly, the procedure can lead to further damage to the tooth, loss of teeth, etc.
  • Ludwig’s angina. This condition is a skin condition that appears under the tongue and around the bottom of the mouth; if you have this condition, you may notice, swelling or inflammation in your mouth and may suffer from fevers, airway issues, septic shock, and pain in the mouth and neck. This condition is caused by bacteria and can present itself in patients after dental procedures if unclean tools are used.
  • Osteomyelitis. Certain dental procedures require dental staff to cut into your jaw or other bones in/around your mouth; if your bone is infected during the surgery (because of poorly sterilized equipment or improperly prescribed antibiotics), you may develop osteomyelitis, which can lead to pain in your jaw, fevers, and swelling.
  • Prolonged facial numbness. Dental medical malpractice can involve a dentist injuring a patient’s nerves which can lead to facial numbness or paralysis.
  • Sinus perforation. Your wisdom teeth and the roots of your upper molar teeth are close to your sinus cavity. During a teeth extraction, a hole may be created between your tooth socket and the sinus cavity during your root canal. Dentists should realize this perforation during surgery and suture the hole. However, failure to detect a perforation or offer quality postoperative care instructions can lead to a malpractice lawsuit.
  • Subcutaneous emphysema. Following a root canal, a person can develop this condition, which occurs when gas or air become trapped under someone’s skin. If left untreated, this trapped air and gas can lead to serious health complications.
  • Systemic infection process. This condition refers to an infection in a localized area that can enter the bloodstream. If a patient develops this infection, it can constitute dental negligence if dental staff fails to use sterilized tools, diagnose the condition, offer adequate post-op care, and/or recommend an improper course of treatment.

Georgia Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations.

Under Georgia Code § 9-3-71, claimants must bring medical malpractice lawsuits forward within two years of the date of their injury or death. However, children under the age of seven who suffer from dental malpractice have more time to bring a claim forward; specifically, children have until their seventh birthday to pursue a claim regardless of the two-year limit. Thus, if your child is injured when they are three years old, you can wait four years to pursue a claim (if you so choose).

Get Legal Help Today

If you believe that you have a case for medical malpractice, it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. A qualified attorney can review the facts of your case, help you gather evidence, and determine the best course of action. In many cases, a dental malpractice suit can be settled out of court through negotiation or mediation. However, if a settlement cannot be reached, your case may need to go to trial.

At Balbo & Gregg, Attorneys at Law, PC, our attorneys have decades of collective experience and are known for providing compassionate and comprehensive legal counsel. If you or a loved one have been injured because of negligence by your dentist, you can trust our firm to help you understand your legal rights and options.

Learn more about how our firm can help you by calling (866) 580-3089 or completing our online contact form today.