No dentist goes into the profession with the intention of wanting to do harm. They do the job because they want to improve lives, improve smiles, and alleviate pain. However, there are times when things go wrong, and a patient is left worse off than they were before the treatment started. Here are the top reasons why patients sue their dentists.
Failure to Detect Disease
Failure to detect disease is one of the most common issues that can lead to a suit of medical malpractice. One of the main obligations of a dentist is to check for gum disease and periodontal disease. This should not be too difficult to diagnose in the early stages as it can cause teeth to become looser, gums swollen, and chewing may become difficult for the patient. However, if it is left untreated, it can erode the jawbone and cause tooth loss.
Oral cancer can sometimes be overlooked by dentists and the result of this can be fatal for the patient. A dentist should check for signs such as inflammation or ulcers and ask the patient for any signs they may have noticed regarding changes in their oral health. Oral cancer can present itself in the lips, cheeks, teeth gums, tongue or the roof of the mouth, so careful checking is essential.
Exceeding the Scope of Consent for Treatment
This happens when a patient is unable to give their consent for treatment or if they feel they are coerced into treatment. A patient should always be given enough time to think about whether they want the treatment to go ahead or not and if necessary, a subsequent appointment should be made for them. However, this is not always possible, such as in the case of emergency dental treatment. This can lead to the patient filing a medical malpractice suit.
A dentist may not be aware that a patient needs to get the consent of an adult. For example, if a patient has early-stage dementia and the dentist is unaware of this, the patient’s family could be angry that treatment is carried out without the consent of a carer or responsible adult. This can lead to complaints and lawsuits. If you are a dentist who is experiencing a complaint like this, contact a professional with many years of experience in defending this type of lawsuit, such as this Cohen law firm.
Improper Use of Dental Implements
It can be difficult for a patient to know if a dentist has used their implements correctly or not, as they are not necessarily experts in this field themselves. However, if a patient is left with an infection or nerve or sinus damage, this can lead to a malpractice lawsuit being filed. Something a dentist will find a lot harder to defend is if an instrument is left in a patient’s mouth. It may be that the tooth has been filled over it which has cause the patient problems, and once this is found, a malpractice suit can be incredibly difficult to defend.
Improper Use of Anesthesia
This can take different forms. If a dentist hits a patient’s nerve while administering anesthesia, this can cause a severe amount of pain which can continue long after the treatment has stopped. Any report of nerve damage needs to be taken seriously and followed up by the dentist. Caring for the patient correctly following a complaint of nerve damage is crucial to the patient and will make a huge difference to the malpractice suit too.
There are times when a patient has an adverse reaction to the anesthetic they are given. This issue can be reduced by asking a patient questions about their medical history and about any other medication they may be taking. An adverse reaction can be fatal so if a dentist sees any sign of this after they have administered the anesthetic, they need to act quickly and effectively in requesting emergency care for their patient.
There are dentists who will carry out unnecessary work for material gain. This will often involve expensive treatment such as bridge work or implants. If a patient feels they have had healthy teeth removed for no reason, this can lead to lawsuits, so it is imperative for the dentist to keep meticulous records regarding patient care so that they can defend themselves if necessary.
Being aware of the top five reasons why patients file medical malpractice lawsuits is important for both patients and dentists alike.