You have probably heard the term “medical malpractice” before. It refers to a situation where a doctor, hospital, or some other medical entity does not live up to the care standard the medical community expects when they treat a patient. They harm someone, and then that individual might decide to take legal action against the medical facility or individual they believe to be at fault.
Dental malpractice is very similar. In this article, we’ll talk about four times that you might pursue a dental malpractice claim and why each instance can be so devastating.
How Often Does Dental Malpractice Happen?
If you’re wondering how often dental malpractice happens, the answer is that it’s probably a lot more widespread than the average patient would like to hear.
There’s an entity called the National Practitioner Data Bank which tracks these claims. They report that in a recent decade, there were 19,755 practicing dentists in the US and that people filed 13,772 adverse actions against them. Also, there were 16,337 malpractice payments stemming from those claims.
Dental hygienists also saw 3,676 adverse action reports filed against them, which led to 49 malpractice payments. That goes to show you that not only dentists can make serious mistakes while treating a patient.
Now, let’s move on to some particular dental malpractice situations.
Failure to Treat or Diagnose Oral Disease Properly
When you go to see the dentist, assuming you go for regular six-month teeth cleanings and checkups, at that point, both the hygienist and the dentist should look you over thoroughly. They should look for loose teeth, signs that point to oral cancer, shifting teeth, cavities, and so forth.
In other words, they should notice and identify any oral issue that comes up, just the same way that a doctor would when you go in for a physical examination. The schools they go to train the dentists and hygienists in what to look for, and that’s part of why you pay them.
If they don’t notice an oral disease symptom, that can harm you further down the line. They might have halted the disease or harmful condition if they had seen it and taken action, but for whatever reason, they failed in doing that.
That’s a time when they did not meet the care standard, and you might often bring a dental malpractice lawsuit against them for that. They could have saved you a great deal of pain and suffering, but they did not.
Failure to Diagnose and Treat Other Dangerous Conditions
Dentists and hygienists should also look for oral conditions that indicate other potential issues that are not necessarily mouth or tooth-related. A good dentist or hygienist should notice when you have mouth cancer or sores that are likely herpes simplex.
They might also notice mononucleosis. They can detect folate deficiencies, oral thrush, leukemia, and many others. Since you aren’t a trained medical professional, you would not necessarily notice these indicators, but someone who went to dental school would, and they should notify you if they spot the warning signs or those of an advanced case.
Negligent Dental Care
You might also bring a dental malpractice claim against your dentist or their assistants if one of them spotted a condition, notified you, and then tried to treat it, but they did so unsuccessfully. In those instances, the oral health professional tried to do the right thing, but because of their incompetence, they made the problem worse.
That’s certainly a situation where you can take legal action since you might be in considerable pain after the dentist or the hygienist gets through with you.
Any Form of Intentional Misconduct
It can be awful when a dentist or hygienist makes a mistake and harms you, but presumably, they did so by accident or negligence. If they hurt you intentionally, that’s another situation entirely.
You might occasionally see an instance where the dentist or hygienist wants to intentionally cause you pain or suffering. They might be a sadist. Perhaps they took advantage of you sexually when you were under anesthesia, or maybe they pulled out one of your teeth when that didn’t need to happen.
This is terrible conduct, and if you can prove that your dentist or hygienist did these things, a jury might award you a sizeable cash settlement.
Ultimately, you’re trusting the dental office’s staff to care for you. When they fail to do so adequately, you can and should take action against them.