It’s a perfectly natural and reasonable assumption that when you go to a dentist for treatment, you return home with less dental problems than when you started. This is largely what a dentist is for, after all. However not all dentists are created equal, and from some you may find yourself finding that what was once supposed to be a routine filling has now turned into a far more expensive operation because your dentist done goofed. When a dentist is accountable for such medical malpractice, it can often seem as though the world is conspiring not just against your teeth, but your wallet too.
Dentists do hold themselves to a certain standard of dental care, just like any other health practitioners with their particular trades, and you can use that to gauge whether or not medical malpractice has been committed. In short: your dentist should perform about as well, if not better, than any other dentist.
What is medical Malpractice?
In short, medical malpractice is a situation whereby a medical practitioner, in this case, a dentist, has deviated from standard dental practice in such a way as to cause unnecessary and long-term injury to a patient. As mentioned above, dentists hold themselves to a specific standard when it comes to their care. Crucially, this also involves set procedures and treatments to given problems. While there may be a number of ways to deal with, say, a cavity or fracture in tooth enamel, those ways are set by standardized medical practice.
If your dentist chooses to undergo treatment in such a way that does not conform to those practices, it often results in additional – and often far more serious – injury to your teeth and mouth. As such it cannot be stressed how important it is for dentists to keep to this standard, and for you to be mindful that they do.
Before Going Further
At this stage, it’s important to stress that dentists are humans just like you and me. They sometimes make mistakes, they have their off days, and they may have times when they’re prevented from performing to their usual standards. It should also be pointed out that just because your mouth hurts shortly after receiving a root canal, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve suffered from dental malpractice. It could instead be a typical reaction to your recovery.
If you have a problem with how you think a procedure went, by all means return to the dentist who performed it and voice your concerns (politely, of course). In ideal circumstances, your dentist will either:
- Be able to diagnose the cause of the pain, and determine whether it’s simply a temporary side effect of prior treatment or accidental long term damage that needs fixing.
- Offer corrective treatment to fix the problem free of charge.
- Recommend you to another dentist to acquire a professional second opinion.
Should your dentist be dismissive of your concerns, or the second dentist confirms that the treatment you received has not been to standard medical practise, you may want to consider looking into filing a claim.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Suit
Typically when a dentist is believed to be acting improperly during their treatments, a complaint is made to the dentist board, the overarching body that oversees dental malpractice in a given area. The dentist board in the USA is called the American Board of General Dentistry. First they will determine if you have actually suffered malpractice. If they decide against it, you’ll receive a letter informing you your complaint was dismissed, as well as instructions on how to appeal.
If they do believe you have a case, they’ll take it further. They will investigate the clinic in question and ensure that everything is being performed to the expected standards. They will also contact the dentist to interview them personally. Should it be found that malpractice has occurred, or the dentist in question refuses to co-operate, you may receive compensation for the treatment – the dentist may also lose their license.
You can also file a medical malpractice suit if you want to make sure you’re compensated for the damage and suffering caused by the treatment. If you choose to go this route, you may want to consider hiring the expertise of a qualified attorney to oversee your case. Medical malpractice suits are very specific and complicated instances, and so you should make sure that you’re being represented and assisted by a lawyer with experience and training in that field. For the same reason, you should avoid the temptation to go it alone. The costs of a lawyer are worth the added security for your case.
Rest assured that dentists and their insurers will probably not settle out of court – to do so would be to admit that they had in fact mistreated a patient. So expect this to go forward whatever the case. Also, expect proceedings to be very expensive, so make sure the costs of filing a claim in this way are suitably outweighed by the gains.
If you’re a dentist and have questions on your medical malpractice coverage, you might want to call your agent, or if you don’t have one, Oros Risk offers great agents who can assist you, and talk with them about your package.
Christian Mills, a professional and freelance writer enjoys sharing articles and insights into taking on the business world. If you would like to learn more about Christian, you can check out his google+ profile.