Dental Malpractice

Last updated on: September 9, 2013

Dental Malpractice Claims

Today, people visit the dentist’s office at least twice a year. Unfortunately, as visits increase, so do the number of dental malpractice issues. This is due to dentists branching out from the more common procedures that they are used to or are qualified to perform. Not unlike a medical malpractice situation, dentists can be guilty of performing a procedure, or conducting their practice in manners that do not meet the standards of their professional competency. When these substandard practices result in patient injury, a dental malpractice claim results. For success, claims require an expert testimony to address the standards required in that field, and how the dentists failed to meet them. Malpractice charges can be filed against the organization that is operating the practice, or against the dentist or specialist who performed the procedure and failed to identify the patient’s needs.

Dental Malpractice

Dentists should be held accountable for their treatments and medical judgement, and patients who are injured as a result of dental malpractice have the right to pursue legal claims, including filing a complaint with the state dental board, and filing a dental malpractice lawsuit.

Common forms of dental malpractice include:

  • Wrongfully administered anesthesia
  • Infections caused by improperly sterilized dental equipment
  • Failure to diagnose and treat periodontal disease
  • Unwarranted delay in treatment
  • Misdiagnosis of a dental condition
  • Needless extraction of teeth

4 Elements Necessary  to Prove Dental Malpractice

1. The Existence of a Duty – You must to prove that your dentist has a duty to properly care for you.  This is implied by the dentist-patient relationship. This is easily proven through patient intake records.

2. A Breach of Care – You must prove that your dentist violated the standard of care.  The standard of care is roughly defined as what is clinically acceptable and recommended treatment and procedure given the medical condition and circumstances. For example, if your dentist was performing a root canal and cut too deep damaging a nerve, then that would be a violation of the standard of care. 

3. The Dentist Injured You –You must prove that the dentist injured you.  This shouldn’t be too hard since the reason most people decide to pursue a malpractice claim is because of an injury.

4. Proof that The Violation of Care Caused the Injury – You must prove that your injury occurred because of the dentist’s negligence.  For example, let’s say that Max goes to see Dr. Gums for a dental treatment.  Max only brushes his teeth three times a week, never flosses and has lots of cavities.  He goes to get hem filled from Dr. Gums.  While the dentist is drilling, he accidentally hits Max’s gums with the drill and causes a sore.  A few monthly later,Max has developed gum recession around his teeth. In order to win a lawsuit claiming that Dr. Gums caused his gum recession, Max must prove that it was the dentist’s drill that caused the gum recession, not his own poor oral hygiene,  which would be hard to prove.