What Constitutes Dental Malpractice?

By Terri Lynn Coop
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Dentists no longer just fill cavities and hand out toothbrushes. As the sophistication and complexity of dentistry and oral surgery increases, so do the chances of being injured by an incompetent dentist. The definitions and legal standards for dental malpractice closely mirror those of medical malpractice.

Legal Standards for Dental Malpractice

If you have been injured by a dentist, there are four things you must prove in court. The first is that the dentist was licensed; this establishes that he has a duty to be professional and take good care of his patient. The second is that the dentist failed that duty through mistakes and shoddy dental work. Third, the mistake caused an injury. The final element is that the injury resulted in damages, such as lost wages, extra medical or dental expenses, scarring or permanent loss of teeth.

Types of Dental Malpractice

A professional review of dental negligence lawsuits identified some of the most commonly claimed injuries. Approximately one-quarter involved complications arising from extractions, including infections, sinus perforation and nerve damage. Twenty percent of claims resulted from endodontic procedures. Gum surgery errors included instruments left behind, air embolisms and nerve damage. Another quarter of the complaints involved injuries, fractures and infections resulting from implants, crowns and bridges. The rest of the cases included drug and anesthesia reactions, complications from orthodontics and braces, severe infections and failure to diagnose diseases.

About the Author

Terri Lynn Coop is an attorney by day and a writer by night. She began writing professionally in 2006 and her work has appeared in Dream People, Whispers of Wickedness, Flashshots and "The Flash 40 Anthology." She has a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from University of the Pacific and a Juris Doctor from the University of Tulsa.