Dentists are health care providers who may be found to be at fault for medical malpractice. Adverse events can and do occur in dentistry, sometimes as a result of dental errors. Like health care professionals in other fields, a dentist must act in accordance with the well-accepted standards and principles of the dental field. A dentist who fails to treat a patient with appropriate care and injures that patient may be liable for dental malpractice. Dental malpractice can cause serious injuries that prevent a victim from leading a normal life.
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One dental expert reviewed over 200 dental malpractice lawsuits and compiled the following statistics. She found that there were four cases alleging that the dentist or oral surgeon failed to diagnose oral cancer in time. Two of these patients passed away due to the cancer. The same review of dental malpractice revealed that the majority of these lawsuits alleged that the dental practitioner did not obtain informed consent or use proper referral protocol.
Of these lawsuits, the top 10 types of dental negligence were:
- Complications due to extractions (63 cases, 8 fatalities)
- Complications due to endodontic procedures, such as root canals (41 cases, 4 fatalities)
- Complications due to implant procedures (25 cases)
- Negligent crown and bridge treatments
- Failure to diagnose or treat periodontal diseases, like gingivitis (19 cases)
- Complications involving orthodontic treatments (18 cases)
- Dental anesthesia (12 claims, 8 patient fatalities)
- Dental infections (11 claims, 4 fatalities)
- Dental injections (10 cases)
- Adverse drug reactions (5 cases, 2 fatalities)
Other types of dental errors included:
- Errors during face and jaw surgeries
- Serious drill injuries
- Undiagnosed fractures
All of the lawsuits reviewed by this expert involved permanent injuries to the patients.
- (i) Dentistry IQ Magazine, September 2004.