When you visit a dentist in Maryland, you have a right to expect professional care and not to suffer injuries or complications. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Dental malpractice can and does occur in our state. Dental malpractice in Maryland follows the same laws as medical malpractice. It can be devastating and even deadly for patients.
Dental malpractice takes many forms. Some can be extremely serious. Children have died from dental anesthesia after incorrect doses were given to them. Patients have been left with nerve damage and serious and painful disfigurement from routine extractions.
If you suffer pain or complications after a visit to the dentist, you should contact our Baltimore malpractice lawyers for a free consultation.
What is Considered Malpractice for a Dentist?
Dental malpractice takes many forms. It is defined as medical malpractice for an injury resulting from negligent or substandard dental work. It may be a failure to diagnose or treat a condition discovered by a dentist such as an oral disease, or any intentional misconduct committed by a dentist.
Dental malpractice can include the following:
- Complications from anesthetic;
- Tooth extraction complications and injuries;
- Infections to the gums or mouth from negligent treatment;
- Injuries to oral nerves;
- Substandard placement of dental implants;
- Failure to diagnose conditions like cancer or oral diseases;
- Root canal injuries;
- Instruments left in a patient during dental treatment;
- Failure to warn of potential nerve damage from wisdom tooth removal;
- Issues with dental work such as canals and bridges;
- Botched orthodontic treatment;
- Taking patients off life-saving medications;
- Wrongful death.
What is Dentist Malpractice?
A Maryland dentist may be held liable for dental malpractice when he or she unintentionally failed to provide an acceptable standard of care that any other dentist would have given the patient. Alternatively, the dentist must have intentionally committed an act that no other reasonable dental provider would have committed in the same situation.
As well as providing an acceptable standard of care, a dentist or another oral health provider like a dental hygienist or an endodontist should not provide any additional services that are beyond your informed consent when you undergo treatment on the dentist’s chair.
The oral surgeon must have carried out work that falls short of the acceptable standard of care to be liable for dental malpractice. It’s not enough to go to a dental practice in Baltimore, Annapolis or elsewhere in Maryland and later sue because you don’t like the job the dentist has done or it fell short of your expectations. The patient must show that the dental professional’s negligence caused an injury or a loss.
Dental malpractice may be extreme and heartbreaking. In 2010, the parents of a Woodstock teen sued an oral surgeon and anesthesiologist after the girl died 10 days after she lost oxygen during a routine wisdom tooth extraction, the Baltimore Sun reported.
What are Common Reasons for the Filing of Dental Malpractice Cases?
Errors during a tooth extraction are among the most common reasons for the filing of a dental malpractice case. These are everyday procedures that usually go smoothly. However, a patient may suffer nerve damage while having a tooth removed or be facially disfigured.
Dental extractions are not always as straightforward as patients believe them to be. In some cases, the patient’s sinus cavity is perforated during a tooth extraction, causing pain and the need for additional surgery to rectify the problem.
Infections during oral surgery can be extremely serious. Both infections and lost implants lead to malpractice claims against dentists. In severe cases, infections have caused the death of a patient.
Poor endodontic procedures are another common reason for filing a dental malpractice claim in Maryland. These include substandard dental implants and root canal procedures. Your dentist should always advise you of any proposed treatments and the potential complications, states the American Association of Endodontists.
Can you Sue for Dental Malpractice?
Yes. Although Maryland has strict standards for dentists and dentists require years of education and training, they make mistakes. When a mistake or willful conduct harms a patient, you should seek legal redress as soon as possible by contacting a Maryland injury lawyer.
Can I Sue My Dentist for Nerve Damage?
Dental nerve damage can be life changing and very serious. Patients who suffer this after an oral procedure can sue their dentist. Nerve damage is most likely after an extraction that went badly, root canals or implants. You can expect some numbness in the hours after treatment. However, if you suffer paralysis, ongoing numbness, a loss of feeling, an inability to taste or a lessened function of your mouth, you may have grounds for a dental malpractice lawsuit. These symptoms are often the result of nerve damage.
The two nerves most likely to be impacted are the inferior alveolar nerve and the lingual nerve. The Inferior alveolar nerve runs under the bottom teeth and controls sensation in the chin, lower lip, lower teeth and lower gums. Root canal operations and extractions in the bottom set of teeth may damage this nerve.
The lingual nerve runs across the tongue. Damage to this nerve can cause loss of taste, reduced sensation, numbness of the tongue and considerable pain. Damage to the tongue is often temporary. However, if these sensations last more than six months, you likely have suffered permanent nerve damage.
Can I Sue my Dentist for Bad Work?
Maryland patients can sue a dentist for bad work but only when it causes injury or loss and the dentist failed to provide a reasonable standard of care. If you had orthodontic work for a crooked smile and your expectations were different from those of the dentist at the end of the procedure, you likely could not sue for dental malpractice based on what you perceived to be bad work.
How much Does Dental Malpractice Insurance Cost?
Dental malpractice insurance and other kinds of medical insurance have a reputation for being fairly high in Maryland. Premiums may be as high as $50,000 a year for dental practitioners.
The healthcare insurance brokerage Gallagher notes Maryland experienced skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums before tort reform in 2004. Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society of Maryland is the largest medical insurer in the state. The company is a doctor/policyholder owned medical malpractice insurer. It has imposed significant hikes in its rates in past years.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Dental Malpractice?
The statute of limitations for dental practice in Maryland is the same as the statute of limitations for general medical malpractice. Patients have three years from the time of the injury to bring a lawsuit.
In some cases, an injury may not be detected immediately. The victim has three years from the date from which the injury is discovered to file suit. However, a lawsuit must be filed within five years of the injury in the absence of an unusual circumstance.
Maryland has specific lawsuit-filing rules for injuries to patients under the age of 11. In most situations, the statute of limitations “clock” will not start until the patient reaches the age of 11.
There is another rule for a patient who is under 16 who suffered harm to the reproductive system or an injury caused by the presence of a foreign object left from surgery. The three-year deadline to file a lawsuit begins at the age of 16.
If a patient suffered from a mental disability at the time of the dental malpractice injury or was under 18 at the time, the filing deadline will most likely be set at three years from the date on which the mental disability ended or the patient turned 18.
What is Dental Negligence?
Dental negligence takes many forms. It may be a failure on the behalf of a dentist to diagnose tooth decay, leading to the escalation of a condition. It can be using a dirty instrument or the wrong instrument during oral surgery causing infection or injury. In rare cases, a foreign object is left in a patient’s mouth.
Dental negligence in Maryland may involve the failure to exercise due care and diligence. It could be a shoddy bridge or crown work that causes pain and suffering and requires further surgery to correct. A misdiagnosis or a failure to disclose information or to get a patient’s consent to treatment also constitutes dental negligence.
Dental negligence includes anesthesia errors that turn a simple dental procedure into a potentially deadly nightmare for patients on the dentist’s chair.
How Do I Sue a Dentist for Malpractice?
Dentists and other medical professionals who deal with teeth and gum issues such as oral surgeons, orthodontists, endodontists, and dental hygienists are treated like doctors, surgeons and nurses under the law. If you received dental treatment that was below the dental standard of care, you can file a dental malpractice lawsuit at a court.
Any medical malpractice case is complicated. A dental provider will likely claim you are clueless about a procedure and will claim he or she gave you proper treatment. These cases are tough to handle on your own. A Maryland dental malpractice lawyer can quickly ascertain whether the dentist’s behavior reached the level of dental malpractice and file a claim accordingly.
Can you Sue a Dentist for Pulling the Wrong Tooth?
Pulling the wrong tooth is typically a careless and avoidable mistake which a reasonable dentist is not expected to make. You may have grounds to sue a dentist but there are some other tests that must be satisfied.
The dentist must have failed to meet the normal standard of care and done something wrong. This test is usually satisfied in the case of pulling the wrong tooth. The dentist’s actions must also have harmed the patient. The patient likely suffered additional medical costs of getting an implant to replace the tooth the dentist removed and further surgery to remove the tooth that should have been extracted. He or she may have lost income from time off work.
How Do I Sue a Dentist?
Most patients who believe they are the victims of dental malpractice contact an injury attorney to file a lawsuit. Although you can file a claim with the court, this is a complicated procedure. An experienced Maryland dental malpractice lawyer looks at all of the aspects of the case and advises you of its chances of success. If you have a case, he will file a claim against the dentist, oral surgeon or other provider and fight the case on your behalf.
If you or a loved one believe you have grounds to file a dental malpractice lawsuit contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras today for a free consultation at (410) 694-7291.