When you think about medical malpractice, you likely imagine botched surgeries or wrongful deaths occurring in a hospital setting. However, any medical professional, including your dentist, can commit medical malpractice.
In our previous blog, “Dental Malpractice: Frequently Asked Questions,” we provided a summary of these claims, including the common causes of dental malpractice like procedural errors, failure to obtain informed consent, and failure to treat.
While dental malpractice lawsuits can be based on situations where a condition was not diagnosed, other instances of dental malpractice lead to serious injuries. In this blog, we list 10 of the most common injuries cited in dental malpractice personal injury claims.
1. Adverse Drug Side Effects
While dental procedures are widely considered minor, these treatments come with many of the same risks as intensive surgical procedures performed in clinics and hospitals. One of the biggest risks is an adverse reaction to a drug or an interaction between the drug and a patient’s condition or medication.
When a dentist is aware of a medical history that indicates that the patient is a high risk of these reactions, but uses a risky drug anyway, the dentist is considered responsible for the results.
2. Brain Damage
While many adverse drug reactions consist of allergic reactions or lack of numbing during procedures, more serious situations can cause respiratory arrest that cuts off airflow to the brain. This injury is particularly common when a dentist incorrectly administered the anesthetic.
A prolonged lack of airflow can lead to permanent brain damage that may affect motor skills or cognitive function.
3. Changes in Mouth Feel
The oral systems are delicate due to the size of the nerves and connective tissues involved. When a dentist commits an error during a surgical treatment, the patient may experience permanent changes in mouth feel.
For example, patients may experience a numbness that doesn’t go away after the anesthetic wears off.
4. Changes in Taste
Like the nerves in the mouth itself, the nerves that communicate taste to the brain can be damaged during dental procedures. When this occurs, patients may experience changes in the way they taste food and beverages.
Patients can lose all ability to taste or may find that nothing tastes quite right.
5. Jawbone Fractures
Intensive dental procedures, such as implant placement, come with some of the most significant risks. Dental implants are attached to titanium screws anchored directly into the jawbone. If a dentist fails to recognize a high risk for broken bones or places the screw incorrectly, then the patient may suffer a jawbone fracture.
These fractures can affect speech, eating, and facial shape.
6. Life-Threatening Infection
Like any other surgical procedure, all dental procedures that involve cutting into the teeth or soft tissues come with a chance of infection. When dentists fail to maintain equipment or office sterility or neglect follow up care, these infections can become more serious. Certain circumstances can cause particularly severe infections, such as pieces of broken instruments left in sockets after extraction.
If an infection that a dentist should have prevented requires hospitalization, then the dentist is likely liable for the hospitalization and any complications of the infection.
7. Sinus Perforation
While many dental errors affect the mouth itself, others can affect the systems that surround your mouth, such as your sinuses. Sinus perforation occurs during upper jaw tooth extraction. In some patients, these teeth are closer to the sinus membrane than others, which should be shown in dental X-rays.
Minor sinus perforation can often heal itself, but if the dentist does not inform the patient, the blood clot sealing the hole could be dislodged easily. Severe perforations require immediate surgical intervention since this hole can lead to infection, complicate eating, and eliminate the ability to use a straw due to a change in oral pressurization.
8. Severed Nerves
Oral nerves can be severed during surgery or during anesthesia injections. The nerves in question might connect to the teeth, cheeks, or tongue. Depending on the nerves affected, the patient may experience changes in eating, speaking, and oral function such as saliva control.
9. Tooth Loss
A number of dental mistakes can result in tooth loss. For example, if a dentist fails to detect periodontal disease in a timely manner or handles orthodontia incorrectly, the patient may lose one or more teeth.
10. Unneeded Procedures
Many medical malpractice suits begin when a healthcare provider performs an unwanted or unnecessary procedure. In a dentist’s office, these procedures are often errors such as performing a root canal or extraction on the wrong tooth.
If you have suffered any of the oral injuries listed above or another serious oral injury while in your dentist’s office, then you may have a personal injury claim. Consult with an experienced attorney to determine if the circumstances of your injury support a dental malpractice lawsuit.
These lawsuits can help you cover medical costs, recover lost income, and help you recover from the effects of your injury.
For expert advice on your dental malpractice suit, trust the legal team at Otorowski Morrow and Golden, PLLC.