Many of us know very little about dental health beyond the fact that we are supposed to brush and floss our teeth daily. We trust our dentist to advise us of any problems they see developing and any treatments that we require. Because of this trust, we expect dentists to practice to a certain standard. If a dentist fails to practice to the standard expected and you are injured as a result, you may have a claim for dental malpractice.
One of the more common forms of dental malpractice occurs when a dentist fails to obtain the informed consent of the patient. One of the dentist’s responsibilities is to explain to the patient the proposed treatment or procedure, the associated risks, and obtain the patient’s consent before proceeding.
Generally cases of dental malpractice arise when the dentist fails to inform the patient of a side effect that may occur as a result of the procedure. If that side effect occurs, and the patient had no warning of the risk, the patient may have a claim for dental malpractice. Whether or not that claim is successful will depend primarily on how likely it was that the side effect would occur. The dentist is not under an obligation to provide the patient with a lengthy list of every possible side effect, only those that are relatively likely to occur.
Another form of dental malpractice occurs when a dentist performs a treatment or procedure on a patient that he or she is not adequately skilled or qualified to perform. There are many types of dental specialists, including dental surgeons, gum specialists, and dentists who specialize in building and fitting prostheses such as false teeth and bridges. The family dentist who checks your teeth for cavities may not be qualified to perform a root canal or remove your wisdom teeth. We trust our dentist to refer us to a specialist for any procedure that the dentist is not qualified to perform. If a dentist injures a patient while performing a root canal and the court determines that the dentist did not have adequate training, experience or tools to perform the root canal, then the dentist may be liable to the patient for medical malpractice.
By making a dental malpractice claim against your dentist, you may be able to recover the cost of the initial dental work as well as costs for any dental procedures that had to be redone, or additional procedures that had to be done to repair damage caused by the initial procedure. You may also be able to recover lost income due to time off work and recover for pain and suffering.
It is important to note that a claim for dental malpractice must be started with the court within 2 years of the date that you know that you have a claim. Therefore, you should consult an experienced malpractice lawyer as soon as possible if you think you might have a claim for dental malpractice.