Dentistry and Medical Malpractice

malpraticeGenerally, when we think about medical malpractice, we think of that urban legend where a friend of a cousin of a friend went in for a common surgical procedure, but then died two days later because the inattentive or unqualified surgeon left a sponge or some other random instrument inside the patient’s body. Or maybe it was a medical error that resulted in the amputation of the wrong limb or the extraction of the incorrect organ. Whatever the tale, the term medical malpractice generally conjures images of emergency rooms and operating tables, not the dentist’s chair. But that shouldn’t necessarily be the case. Thirteen percent of malpractice claims filed in the U.S. are against dentists, according to the American Board of Legal Medicine.

So what might dental malpractice entail? Thankfully, a reputable New York personal injury attorneys can help you determine if you have a dental malpractice case. Yes, that root canal hurt like crazy, but unfortunately, it doesn’t qualify. Basically, dental malpractice is when a dentist acts in a manner that is different from the dental standard of care. If most other dentists would have treated a patient in a different way, and the manner in which the dentist treated a patient led to pain, unnecessary procedures, or a worsened condition, then that dentist has committed dental malpractice.

For example, let’s say Mary has a tooth that has been bothering her. She makes an appointment with her local DDS and ventures in, thinking she’ll finally be able to eat painlessly. Dr. Doom decides that Mary needs her tooth extracted and that she’ll need an expensive bridge to fill the gap the painful tooth will leave behind. Mary goes along with the procedure—I mean, he’s the dentist, after all, and a few weeks later still finds herself in pain. She gets a recommendation from a friend and visits another dentist, Dr. Standard, a shining example of the American Dental Association. He x-rays her and discovers she’s had an untreated infection that has worsened with time. It could easily have been handled with antibiotics had Dr. Doom bothered to examine Mary properly. Instead, Mary is out a tooth, cash, time, and still needs to undergo surgery to deal with an infection that Dr. Doom failed to treat. Dr. Doom was clearly negligent and it has injured Mary.

There are a few specific areas in which most dental malpractice cases fall. These include:

  • Removing teeth that don’t need to be removed
  • Misdiagnosing, failing to diagnose, or mistreating a condition
  • Taking undue time to treat a condition
  • Causing an infection with improperly sterilized dental equipment
  • Administering anesthesia improperly

Unfortunately, while having any of these happen to you would be traumatic, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have malpractice claim on your hands. A New York personal injury lawyer will help you illustrate how a dentist’s negligence led to specific damages, such as lost wages or excessive pain and suffering. In personal injury cases, the negligence of one person must be determined to have caused damages to another person. This is why it is important to speak with someone knowledgeable about personal injury law and claims.

Thankfully, a good personal injury lawyer in New York can help you determine whether your dental nightmare falls under the umbrella of medical malpractice. Many offer free consultations that will help you share your story and learn whether you should file a claim against a negligent dentist.