What is Dental Malpractice?

Dental malpractice means that a dentist provided negligent or substandard care while treating a patient. If such negligence resulted in injury, you may be able to file a claim against your dentist. You will need a personal injury lawyer to build your case and get you the best settlement.

What Is Dental Malpractice?

What is considered dental malpractice? Dental malpractice is when a dentist fails to provide reliable, safe, and effective treatment to a patient. Read to learn everything about what dental malpractice is and more!

If a dental patient is harmed during a dental procedure, the dentist can be charged with negligence or malpractice just like other doctors. This applies to orthodontists and oral surgeons, too.

If you plan to file a personal injury claim against your dentist, you will need an attorney who knows how to prove dental malpractice.

What Are the Elements of a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit?

To build their case, the plaintiff and their lawyer need to prove the following:

  • The existence of a dentist-patient relationship
  • Establish what the medical standard of care is in the case
  • How the dentist failed to meet that medical standard 
  • How the plaintiff was injured, and how serious those injuries were

Steps to File a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit 

Before you file your claim, you may need an affidavit from a healthcare professional saying that the claim is legitimate. You should also present your claim to the state board of dentistry before you bring it to court. 

Then, your attorney will file your pleading with the court. Your dentist then has about a month to respond to the claim. Once they respond, the plaintiff and the defendant exchange discovery. This includes all documentation related to the case. This includes documentation of the patient’s treatment and the patient’s testimony.

If the parties are not able to settle the case outside of court and if the court accepts it, the case moves on to trial.

Examples of Dental Malpractice

What is an example of malpractice in dentistry? The most common examples of dental malpractice include:

  • Improper tooth extraction methods
  • Patient injury
  • Anesthesia administered unnecessarily
  • Failure to properly manage employees like hygienists
  • Lack of consent before giving treatment

Common Causes of Dental Malpractice Claims

What are common reasons for the filing of dental malpractice cases? Dental malpractice claims can result from a number of procedures, whether that be a routine cleaning or a major dental surgery. If the treatment goes wrong in any way, that can be grounds for a dental malpractice claim. Such causes include:

  • Negligence
  • Failure to correctly diagnose a dental problem or refer a specialist
  • Improper conduct
  • Failure to properly sanitize dental equipment
  • Treating patients with sub-standard dental products
  • Failure to detect oral diseases
  • Patient injury

Possible Injuries Caused by Dental Malpractice

Failure to properly diagnose and treat dental problems can cause injury or even death. Patients can file claims related to negligent procedures and injuries like broken teeth, damaged nerves, and damaged lips, tongue, gums, and face. A patient may also experience complications from anesthesia or get infections from improperly sanitized dental tools.

Who Else May Be Liable for Dental Malpractice?

In order to bring a dental malpractice case to court, you need to identify the offending party. While this is usually your dentist, sometimes the responsible party can belong to a dental hygienist, dental office employees, dental equipment manufacturer, or the owner of the dental office.

A dental hygienist can be charged with dental malpractice for any of the following offenses:

  • Violating patient confidentiality
  • Failure to meet medical care standards
  • Failure to control and prevent infections as dictated by medical standards
  • Administering anesthesia without asking if the patient has self-medicated
  • Failure to keep proper records and documents
  • Soliciting patients after leaving the employ of the dentist’s office

What You Need to Prove in a Dental Malpractice Claim

You may be wondering, is dental malpractice hard to prove? With the right evidence, your attorney will be able to make your case. When filing a dental malpractice claim, you and your attorney have to prove four things:

  • The existence of a dentist-patient relationship
  • Establish what the medical standard of care is in the case
  • How the dentist failed to meet that medical standard 
  • How the plaintiff was injured, and how serious those injuries were

The Existence of a Dentist-Patient Relationship

This is the easiest piece of information to prove. Dental offices and patients have documentation of services rendered and payments.

Establish Medical Standard of Care

To prove that a dentist’s work was substandard, your attorney must first establish what qualifies as standard care. In other words, what should the same procedure look like if it was done safely and correctly?

The attorney will find out what a dentist with similar skills to the defendant would have done in the same situation. Usually, the attorney will establish this by bringing in a healthcare professional as an expert witness. Typically this will be a qualified dentist who is experienced with the procedure in question.

For example, if you file a dental malpractice claim because of an injury related to a root canal, your attorney will bring a qualified expert witness who knows about root canals.

Prove the Dentist Failed to Meet the Standard of Care

Once the standard of care has been established by the expert witness, your attorney will go on to prove how your dentist breached that standard of care. You might need an expert witness to explain how the dentist should have treated the patient and how they treated the patient in actuality.

Plaintiff Injuries

Finally, the attorney will go over the plaintiff’s injuries to determine their seriousness. This involves looking at medical reports, https://www.azns.org/neurontin-gabapentin/ medical bills, and any other documentation related to the plaintiff’s injury. The attorney will assess all this evidence and determine whether your case is worth the expense of going to court.

Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer 

We expect medical professionals to provide us with proper care. In some cases, medical professionals fail to uphold the standard of care. It can be stressful, painful, and financially taxing to deal with an injury from dental negligence. If you were injured as a result of sub-standard dental care, hire a personal injury lawyer to make your claim.

Jarrod Hays

Jarrod Hays

Jarrod Hays is the founder of Skyview Law. He is licensed to practice law in Washington State and the Western District of Washington State Federal Court.