What Are the Most Common Dental Malpractice Claims?
After spending years as a dentist, most of the routine dental procedures you perform are second nature. But accidents happen, even if you do everything right—and those accidents can lead to dental malpractice lawsuits. There are several reasons why a patient might file suit against you or your practice. Keep reading to learn what constitutes dental malpractice and common dental mistakes that lead to settlements.
Defining Dental Malpractice
Patients expect a certain standard of care when they enter your office for a routine visit or procedure. Whether you’re performing a wisdom tooth extraction or implant fitting, you must work diligently to maintain that standard. If you fail to follow proper procedures, you could be committing dental malpractice.
In a legal sense, dental malpractice has a stricter definition. An unhappy patient must be able to:
- Demonstrate a standard of care for their dental issue or treatment
- Prove that they suffered an injury or issue because of their dentist’s mistake
- Show that their dentist breached the established standard of care, which caused their injuries
Types of Dental Malpractice
The most common dental malpractice cases typically fall into one of these categories:
- Misdiagnosis, including an incorrect diagnosis or failure to diagnose an issue
- Dental negligence, like failing to check a patient’s medical records before prescribing medication or performing the wrong procedure
- Intentional misconduct, like recommending an unnecessary procedure for monetary gain
Even if a patient cannot prove that you performed one of these types of malpractice, you may still spend thousands in court defending yourself and your reputation. Dental malpractice insurance can help you pay for lawsuit costs and ensure that a lawsuit doesn’t threaten your future career.
Dental malpractice insurance can help you pay attorney fees and settlement costs, but it doesn’t cover everything. Learn more about this crucial coverage and how it works.
Common Dental Malpractice Settlements
There are many dental injuries that patients can sue a dentist for, but these are the most common medical malpractice claims that turn into successful lawsuits.
Settlements for Dental Nerve Damage
If a dental professional drills too deeply during a filling or root canal, fails to extract wisdom teeth properly, or misplaces a dental implant, they can cause severe nerve injury to a patient. Damage to the inferior alveolar nerve, lingual nerve, and other nerves in the mouth and jaw can cause long-term effects like numbness and tingling, loss of taste, speech issues, and chronic pain. Nerve damage settlements can reach six or seven figures, depending on the extent of the injury.
Failure To Diagnose Oral Health Issue Settlements
Dentists may miss an issue while performing dental work or reviewing an X-Ray that indicates or leads to a serious oral health issue, like periodontal disease or cancer. If they were trained to identify that issue, the patient could file a dental malpractice claim for negligence. They may receive a settlement for their medical bills and other ongoing problems if successful.
Unnecessary Procedure Settlement
Dentists are expected to recommend and perform procedures to correct dental issues. But if they push a procedure that’s unnecessary in order to make more money from insurance companies or get a kickback from an implant manufacturer, they are breaching their standard of care. If a patient can prove that they received a filling, root canal, extraction, or implant placement that wasn’t necessary, they may be able to win a settlement.
Dental Implant Malpractice Settlements
Dental implants can help a patient chew or address cosmetic issues when placed correctly. But if a dentist doesn’t install an anchor or crown correctly, the implant can cause nerve damage, tooth decay, bone loss, and other issues. If a patient can prove you failed to follow procedures or perform proper aftercare after the implant placement, you may be required to pay a settlement.
Improper Anesthetic Settlements
During dental treatment that requires anesthesia, administering the proper amount is crucial. Too little anesthesia can cause the patient to feel serious pain, whereas too much can lead to vomiting, respiratory issues, brain damage, and even death. Patients can sue if they believe you administered the incorrect amount of anesthesia.
Several things can go wrong during a dental extraction, including nerve damage, sinus perforation, and infections. You may also accidentally remove the wrong tooth or perform an unnecessary extraction. Any of these mistakes can lead to a malpractice lawsuit.
Endodontic Procedure Settlements
Endodontic procedures like root canals help save teeth with inflamed or infected pulp, but they can also cause sinus and nerve issues, secondary infections, and lingering pain. If you address these issues promptly, you may be able to avoid a lawsuit, but failing to correct them may lead to your patient consulting a law firm.
Incorrect Dosage Settlements
After a dental procedure, a patient may need medication to prevent infection or provide pain relief. You are responsible for prescribing the right drug and dosage for their medical history, age, and size. If you fail to check medical records and prescribe a medication that the patient is allergic to or an incorrect dosage, the patient can sue for malpractice.
Protect Your Risks With Dental Malpractice Insurance
Dental malpractice suits may seem unlikely, especially if you have excellent patient relationships. But you can’t predict when a routine procedure will go wrong, causing your patient to consult a dental malpractice lawyer. You need professional liability insurance to ensure a lawsuit doesn’t threaten your financial future.
At Southpoint Insurance, we specialize in medical malpractice insurance for dentists and oral surgeons. Our experienced team knows the ins and outs of dental malpractice insurance and can help you determine the policy type, limit amounts, and coverages you need to protect your practice. We work with the most trusted dental and oral surgeon insurance carriers to get you affordable rates without sacrificing coverage. Get in touch today to learn more about our dental malpractice insurance options or request a quote.