7 Common Lawsuits For Dental Malpractice (and how to avoid them)

Aug 6, 2020 | Business Insurance

Out of all the medical malpractice lawsuits that are issued every year, 1 out of 7 of them are related to dental care.

As a dental care provider, it’s important for you to understand which mistakes or cases can end up costing you a lot in the long run. The better you understand what can cause a dental malpractice lawsuit, the easier you can avoid one.

Keep reading to learn about what dental malpractice is as well as the most common reasons for issuing this lawsuit!

What is Dental Malpractice?

Dental malpractice is when the care received from a dentist, oral surgeon, or any other dental health provider was below the acceptable standard. 

Along with care that is below the acceptable standard, a personal injury or death from a procedure is grounds for a dental malpractice lawsuit. If there is no serious injury present, the case will most likely be dismissed.

“Malpractice” is a legal term, so in order for a patient to win the lawsuit, the case must match the very specific definition of malpractice. In order for your patient to win a dental malpractice lawsuit, they must have proof of the injury caused to them as well.

What You Should Know About Dental Malpractice Lawsuits

Proper documentation is going to be the key to your client winning a lawsuit.

Their dental record will have to contain the history of their care, the procedures you’ve performed, future treatment plans, and necessary communication between the dentist and patient. 

Important documentation also includes…

  • A copy of the written consent form that was signed prior to the surgery (if any other treatment happened without consent, this will push the case in the patient’s favor)
  • Record of all of your patient’s history with you
  • A treatment plan for any injuries or complications experienced
  • Notes written regarding the procedure

If any of the pages of documentation are missing, this will make the patient’s case less successful.

What Are the Most Common Lawsuits About?

There are many requirements to win a dental malpractice lawsuit and some people have won. 

Here are the most common reasons for issuing or winning a dental malpractice lawsuit…

1. Issues Following Extractions

Complications such as infection, severed nerves, and sinus perforation are the most common dental issues requiring a lawsuit.

Infection from a tooth extraction can cause a patient to require hospitalization. If the dentist or oral surgeon failed to provide the proper medications for recovery, they were liable for covering the hospital visit.

While hospitalization from infection is the reason for many lawsuits, unfortunately, some patients who experienced infection died as a result.

In the case of severed nerves, the damage was permanent. Also, the dentists did not follow up after the procedure. 

When sinus perforation happened, the dentists failed to diagnose the patient accordingly. Because of this, they failed to refer the patient for treatment.

2. Endodontic Procedures

Complications following endodontic procedures are the second most popular cause of a dental lawsuit.

Among the problems caused by endodontic procedures are instruments left in canals, nerve and sinus perforation, air embolisms, and life-threatening infections. Some of these cases resulted in death.

Of the life-threatening cases, several were a result of brain abscesses. Of the patients who survived these complications, a few had brain damage which made a lawsuit necessary. 

3. Crown and Bridge Treatment

The complications with crown and bridge treatments mostly consist of open margins, overhanging restorations, or poor occlusion. 

All of the cases of crown and bridge complications required some form of full-mouth restoration. There seemed to be a lack of a plan for treating these issues on the dentist’s part.

4. Implant Complications

In the lawsuits related to implants, many were related to implants being lost.

A treatment plan following the loss of the implants seemed to be either lacking or non-existent. There has also been one patient who has suffered from an infection as a result of the complication. As a result, they succumbed to the infection.

5. Diagnosis of Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is an infection of the bone and tissues of the mouth.

When left untreated, periodontal disease can cause teeth to loosen and fall out, heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular issues. If a dentist fails to identify periodontal disease or gingivitis which can turn into periodontal disease, they are failing to protect the patient from the resulting conditions.

In the lawsuits surrounding periodontal disease, the dentists failed to have routine x-rays which would identify periodontal disease.

6. Anesthesia Complications

For the most fatalities, anesthesia complications tied with problems related to tooth extraction. 

Adults and children have died as a result of anesthesia complications. Patients can die from surgery if they experience malignant hyperthermia, which is a high fever that results from the anesthesia. It is the oral surgeon’s job to keep an eye out for the symptoms of this condition and treat it immediately.

7. Adverse Drug Reactions

The most common reason for adverse drug reactions is negligence in the dentist checking the patient’s medical history.

Because the dentists didn’t check the patient’s medical history, they prescribed a drug that interacted negatively with drugs the patient was already taking. Dentists often have a “go-to” drug for their procedures.

The dentists who caused adverse drug reactions failed to check for interactions before prescribing the drug they lean on most.

Out of the five adverse drug reactions lawsuits, two of them resulted in death.

Is the Case Considered Dental Malpractice?

Dental malpractice is a very unfortunate but real problem for patients and dental health providers.

While permanent injuries, death, and other complications are pretty rare following a routine dental procedure, they do still happen. If your patient feels they were a victim of dental malpractice, it’s important for you to know what they will need for the lawsuit.

If your patient has experienced any of the scenarios listed above, there is a good chance they will win the lawsuit. Be very careful to avoid these.

Now that you know what a dental malpractice lawsuit looks like, reach out to us today with any other questions you have!