Top 3 Reasons to Sue a Dentist for Malpractice

Dental instruments on blue.

The top 3 reasons to sue a dentist for malpractice include issues with extractions, endodontic procedures, and dental implants. In addition, there are other types of dental malpractice that may warrant a lawsuit against a dentist.

Knowing more about the different types of dental malpractice and how they occur can help you determine whether you might have a valid case worth pursuing.

Common Types of Dental Malpractice

There are many types of dental malpractice that could result in various injuries and illnesses. The following are some of the most common instances of dental malpractice that can develop:

  • A late or missed diagnosis
  • Incorrect or inadequate care
  • Providing inappropriate care, such as performing procedures on the wrong teeth
  • Delayed treatment
  • Failure to refer patients to the right specialists
  • Providing the wrong type of dental treatment

There are many issues that can develop as a result of these types of dental malpractice, including life-threatening illnesses that develop from an ensuing infection. 

If you believe that a dentist’s malpractice has caused you to suffer harm, you will need to prove that the dentist engaged in malpractice and that this malpractice led to your injury or illness. With a valid case, you may be able to recover compensation for unnecessary surgery and other types of malpractice.

Reasons to Sue a Dentist for Malpractice in Illinois

There is a wide variety of dental malpractice that can lead to a lawsuit against a dentist, but the following are among the top reasons in Illinois:

1. Issues Developing from Extractions

Different types of dental issues can develop after tooth extractions. For example, patients may suffer oral nerve damage, infection, and sinus perforation.

Nerve damage is frequently permanent and may result in pain, numbness, or loss of taste in the tongue, lip, and mucosa.

In many cases, infections lead to hospitalizations and can result from a lack of antibiotics and other medication used to treat patients following an extraction. In some instances, infections could also result in the patient’s death. 

Sinus perforation results when the sinus and mouth become directly connected during extraction. This may result in a sinus infection along with the drainage of fluid from the mouth to the nose. 

2. Endodontic Procedures

Endodontic procedures also often result in complications without proper care and precautions. 

There are several issues that can develop because of endodontic procedure complications, including nerve and sinus perforation, infections, air embolisms, and surgical instruments left in the patient.

The types of infections in these cases can also result in permanent brain damage due to brain abscesses.

3. Complications from Dental Implants

Most cases involving dental implant complications involve the loss of implants. This often results from a lack of a proper treatment plan in place for patients, potentially leading to life-threatening infections.

4. Bridge and Crown Treatment

Various complications may develop after crown and bridge treatment. Some examples include poor occlusion, open margins, and overhanging restorations, potentially requiring restoration procedures in extreme cases. 

After crown and bridge treatments, dentists must relay an effective patient plan to help prevent infections and other complications. 

5. Periodontal Disease

Another common cause of dental malpractice lawsuits is periodontal disease. This illness involves tissue or bone infections in the mouth. Without sufficient care, patients could suffer from lost teeth and the subsequent development of more serious conditions, including strokes and heart attacks. 

A dentist might be liable if he or she failed to properly identify, diagnose, and provide treatment for periodontal disease. In most cases, x-ray procedures can help spot periodontal disease.

6. Orthodontics

Cases may also involve complications from orthodontic treatments. For instance, patients could lose teeth if root resorption develops, which entails the body breaking down and ultimately absorbing tissues around affected teeth.

Other complications in these cases may involve temporomandibular joint (TMJ) injuries, allergic reactions to orthodontics, gum disease and tooth decay, and soft tissue injuries.

7. Complications from Anesthesia

Often during tooth extractions and other procedures, dentists may administer anesthesia. Complications could result from the use of different types of anesthesia, including local anesthesia, sedation, and general anesthesia.

Specific issues that could develop from anesthesia include allergic reactions from swelling to breathing difficulties, nerve damage in the form of paresthesia, stopped breathing, coma, seizures, and a potentially deadly condition known as malignant hyperthermia

8. Dental Infections

Improper care and treatment plans could make dentists liable for different types of infections.

Negligence could be responsible for infections such as:

  • Root canal infections
  • Abscesses
  • Osteonecrosis of the jaw resulting from medication
  • Implant and periodontal infections

9. Dental Injections

Dentists may administer injections before or during certain procedures, with most involving local anesthesia.

Several complications could result from these injections, such as infection, needle fractures, nerve damage, sensory disorders, soft tissue injuries, gingival lesions, and hematoma.

10. Adverse Reactions to Drugs

Before administering or prescribing any type of drug, a dentist must determine whether the patient is likely to have an adverse reaction based on his or her medical history. Often, dentists learn about new patients’ allergies through patient forms during screening. 

Allergic reactions could be mild, but some cases have resulted in fatalities. 

How to Prove Dental Malpractice

If you or a loved one has sustained injuries and other damages because of a dentist’s negligence, you may be able to recover compensation in a medical malpractice case. However, you will need to prove negligence in four ways.

The four items you must prove in these cases include the following:

The Dentist’s Duty of Care

Dentists and other medical professionals owe a duty of care to patients that help prevent foreseeable harm. Part of proving a duty of care entails proving that you established a dentist-patient relationship with your dentist. You may be able to prove this relationship through various documentation, including patient records, receipts for treatment and procedures, and appointment cards.

Failure to Meet the Standard of Care

If the dentist owed a duty of care to you, you would need to prove that the dentist breached this duty of care. 

Many acts of malpractice may count as a breach of duty, including giving a patient nerve damage, the failure to diagnose a particular condition, complications resulting from anesthesia, and infections following certain procedures.

You may also be able to prove a breach of duty if a dentist failed to request your written permission to administer certain drugs in situations requiring this permission. For instance, you wouldn’t normally need general anesthesia during a basic filling procedure, as this tends to require only local anesthesia.

Causation

Once you prove that the dentist breached his or her duty of care, you’ll need to show that this breach of duty caused harm to you or a loved one. Even if a dentist has exhibited negligence, this doesn’t always lead to harm, which can enable the dentist to escape liability.

If you suffer an injury or other damages, consider whether they would have developed without a breach of duty. For instance, if your dentist hadn’t provided you with a specific actionable treatment plan following a procedure to prevent infection and other complications, he or she may be liable for a resulting infection that you couldn’t anticipate.

A medical malpractice lawyer may be able to help you prove that a dentist’s negligence caused your damages in a dental malpractice case.

Specific Damages

Not only do you need to prove that a breach of duty caused injuries and damages, but you’ll also need to specify those damages.

There are several types of damages that patients may incur because of a dentist’s negligence, including:

  • Economic damages such as medical expenses for treating dental injuries and infections, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and ongoing care
  • Non-economic damages, including emotional injuries and pain and suffering

Punitive damages may also apply in a case involving gross negligence or malicious intent. The goal of these damages is to punish defendants and prevent them from committing the same or a similar act in the future. They essentially make an example of negligent dentists.

Building a Dental Malpractice Case

Proving negligence in a medical malpractice case can be challenging, but taking the right steps could help determine if a dentist’s negligence resulted in injuries or wrongful death. You might be worried about the cost to hire a medical malpractice lawyer, but an experienced attorney will help you build your case and charge on a contingency, meaning you won’t need to pay unless the lawyer succeeds with your case.

An attorney can help determine if you have a case and give you an idea of the common dental malpractice settlement amounts to help you estimate the amount of compensation you may be eligible to recover.

Understanding the top reasons to sue a dentist may enable you to better determine whether you suffered an injury or illness because of a dentist’s negligence.

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