While no one enjoys going to the dentist’s office, no one expects to suffer serious or lasting harm during an appointment, either. Unfortunately, malpractice occurs more frequently than anybody would like to imagine. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were nearly 17,000 dental malpractice payouts from 2004 to 2014, over 130 of which took place here in Utah.
If you, your spouse, or your child suffered a preventable injury or illness after receiving substandard dental treatment, your family may have a right to compensation for the medical bills, losses of income, and other hardships you’ve endured as a result of the negligent care. Like all medical professionals, dentists are held to high standards — and can be held accountable when those standards are ignored.
To learn more about getting compensated in a free and confidential legal consultation, call attorney Jay Sheen at (801) 618-3580. Jay has over 33 years of experience handling complex dental injury claims in the Salt Lake City area, including West Jordan, West Valley City, Sandy, Draper, Farmington, Bountiful, Provo, Ogden, and more. Cases Jay works on include fillings, crowns, root canals, tooth extractions, wisdom tooth removal, and other dental procedures.
What is Dental Malpractice? What Are Some Common Examples?
Most people are already familiar with the idea of medical malpractice, in which a doctor can be held liable if his or her actions result in the preventable death or injury of a patient. Dental malpractice follows the same concept, but with a focus on dentists, dental assistants, dental hygienists, dental anesthesiologists, and other healthcare professionals who work on patients’ teeth, tongues, and gums.
While underlying facts must always be analyzed on a case-by-case basis, some common examples of ways negligent dental care can give rise to a malpractice claim include:
- Failure to sterilize dental equipment, such as needles and syringes.
- Extracting too many teeth in a single session.
- Extracting healthy teeth.
- Allowing a patient to aspirate pieces of a tooth or dental materials.
- Practicing dentistry while impaired by a physical condition or disability.
- Fitting patients with implants or corrective devices which aren’t properly adjusted.
- Failure to monitor a sedated patient’s oxygen levels.
- Failure to obtain informed consent from the patient, specific to the procedure which was actually performed.
- Failure to adequately supervise less experienced members of the dental practice while prepping or performing various procedures.
- Failure to diagnose oral cancer or other conditions affecting the mouth.
- Failure to properly treat complications resulting from a procedure, such as an infection.
- Failure to refer the patient to a specialist where appropriate.
- Performing the wrong type of procedure.
- Cutting into a nerve, vein, or artery, resulting in bleeding or nerve damage.
- Administering a harmful or lethal combination of sedative drugs, painkilling drugs, or other medications.
- Causing avoidable scarring and disfigurement.
- Sexually assaulting a patient who is under sedation.
- Performing a procedure for which the dentist is not properly licensed.
What Does an Injury Victim Need to Prove in Order to Recover Compensation?
Many people have the wrong idea about what does and doesn’t constitute dental malpractice, which does not necessarily exist purely because the patient experienced a poor outcome. In order for an incident to be regarded as malpractice, certain facts and criteria must have been in place. Because the “burden of proof” falls to the plaintiff or claimant, he or she is responsible for demonstrating the existence of these facts and criteria, a task aided by the production of evidence such as medical records and dental experts’ professional opinions.
First, there must have been a formal dentist-patient relationship between the parties. Doctors, including dentists, have a duty of care toward their patients, which means taking reasonable precautions to reduce the risk of foreseeable death or injury.
The second point is that this duty of care was breached, or violated. The examples provided in the section above show just a few of the many ways a dental professional can breach their duty of care — for instance, by failing to sterilize a piece of equipment.
The third point is that the substandard treatment resulted from the dentist’s actions, or, in some cases, the lack thereof. Importantly, these actions must have resulted in actual harm to the patient — for instance, necessitating additional surgeries to correct nerve damage.
If You’ve Been Injured at the Dentist, Call a Utah Personal Injury Lawyer
It isn’t always easy to tell whether or not you have a case, even when you understand the basic elements which are involved. It is very important to speak to an experienced attorney if you have any suspicions that your dentist failed to provide you with adequate care, because the details of each situation must be evaluated on an individual basis in order to determine whether the injured party has a case.
If your Salt Lake City dentist injured you, or failed to diagnose your medical condition, you could be entitled to compensation. To learn more about your rights in a free and confidential legal consultation, call injury lawyer Jay Sheen at (801) 618-3580 today.