What is dental malpractice? And what is not?

Posted in: Medical Malpractice | Jan 27,2022

Dental malpractice is not the presence of a cavity or pain associated with, for example, a tooth extraction. However, if a routine tooth extraction is followed by discovering that the dentist extracted the wrong tooth, let’s say, and nerve damage occurred, dental malpractice may be on the table. This somewhat oversimplified illustration is unfortunately not that uncommon. It’s one of several examples of dental malpractice encountered by medical malpractice lawyers experienced in trying dental malpractice cases.   

Dental Malpractice Defined and Contextualized

Dental malpractice is simply negligence committed by a professional health care provider resulting in harm to a patient. In most instances, dental malpractice law adheres to the same tenets as medical malpractice law. The three components all medical cases must have are:

  1. There is a failure by a professional to meet the standard of care.
  2. There is an injury that results from that negligence.
  3. That injury causes significant suffering.

Dental malpractice in Indiana follows the same laws as medical malpractice. However, there is evidence that dentistry may lag behind medicine in reckoning with its tendency toward excessive and misguided treatment. Dentists, endodontists, dental assistants, hygienists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons must adhere to a standard of medical care. Should they fail and face a malpractice lawsuit in Indiana, the case will likely go before a medical review panel through the Indiana Department of Insurance

The process of filing a dental malpractice (or medical malpractice) case is different from personal injury cases like road construction accidents or product liability. You want a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney who can guide you through filing suit with the Indiana Department of Insurance, assemble a panel, present your case, and either reach a settlement or take the case to court.  

Examples of Dental Malpractice

As we previously mentioned, tooth extraction malpractice is a common form of dental malpractice. Other common examples of dental malpractice include non-supervision of dental hygienist work, non-referral to specialists, lack of informed patient consent, medication errors, and surgical errors. In addition, there are numerous situations where missed diagnosis or incorrect diagnosis comes into play. 

It’s easy to construe dental work as simple and innocuous. Some appointments may be as simple as a cleaning and quick once-over. However, considered in the context of tooth extractions, root canals, orthodontics, mouth cancers, and other procedures with significant health impacts, dental health is every bit as important to monitor and expect a standard of care from dental professionals. It is part of our overall health and well-being.

What to Do if you Think you Have Experienced Dental Malpractice

Gather information from the healthcare provider(s). You have the right to copies of your records for a reasonable charge. The items you should ask for include:

  • Your dental chart (x-rays, bitewings, and models)
  • Billing records
  • Progress notes
  • Prescriptions
  • Referral letters

With this basic information in hand, you should consult an experienced malpractice attorney.

Where to Go for Help

If you’re hiring a dental malpractice lawyer, naturally, you want the best representation you can find. A few questions you might ask as you evaluate include: 

  • Is your law firm experienced in dental malpractice and medical malpractice law? 
  • How well do they know malpractice law in the state of Indiana?  
  • Do they have a track record of success in malpractice cases? 
  • Do they have a reservoir of talent in their practice that includes medical experts?

Dental malpractice cases are not lightweight endeavors. Filing, discovery, depositions, case submission to a review panel, and waiting for an opinion can take months or even years to complete. If your suffering is substantial and you believe it is worth the potential time and effort required to get fair compensation, make sure you do it right. As you consider filing a dental malpractice lawsuit, hire a team that is the right fit—one that recognizes the personal side of your suffering and has the personal injury experience and an extensive network of experts to help you reset the trajectory of your life.