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Dental Malpractice: Top 10 Reasons Dentists Get Sued

If you pursue a career in health care, especially if it’s any type of healthcare professional, you’re putting yourself at risk for medical malpractice claims. Whether or not you do anything wrong, there’s always the chance that a patient will be dissatisfied and sue you or your clinic.

Dentists are frequently involved in personal injury claims, and these lawsuits can be expensive. Knowing how often you may get into a legal problem is critical. What puts you at risk, and how should you protect yourself? Being aware of this information might help you safeguard yourself throughout your career.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a dental mistake, the consequences can be devastating. You or the victim might be dealing with disfigurement, pain, high medical expenses, and other problems as a consequence of the harm. Even in the face of significant challenges, it is essential that you pursue a dental malpractice claim.

To find out whether you have a valid dental malpractice claim, contact Texas Personal Injury Lawyers for a free case evaluation to verify that you have one. Our dentist malpractice lawyer will walk you through the process.

Dentist Malpractice Lawsuit Statistics: Why Do Dentists Get sued?

Dentists do, in fact, get sued, despite the fact that the dentist chair isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when someone hears “medical malpractice.” Fortunately, the number of dentists who get sued is quite low compared to other professions.

However, if a claim were to occur, all dentists should be ready. According to National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) malpractice payment statistics from 2010 through 2021, there have been 139,774 individual medical malpractice payments made in all medical specialties. Of the payments submitted by these providers, dentists and dental hygienists accounted for 16,118, or roughly 11.5 percent of them.

It’s critical to note that this is only the number of claims reported to the NPDB. It does not include claims filed, adverse actions, litigation in which providers were dismissed, or any other sort of incident that might necessitate defense expenditures.

The good news is that the rate of these payments has remained constant, with the exception of the past two years, when it fell significantly. Because dentist offices were forced to close and people postponed their regular dental visits as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, this may have been the case.

According to the American Dental Association, there are a variety of reasons behind dental claims and lawsuits, including:

  • Improper crown/bridge placement
  • Prescribing incorrect drugs or dosages
  • Improper tooth extractions
  • Endodontic procedures
  • Orthodontic treatment complications
  • Improper treatment after procedures
  • Failure to diagnose oral health issues
  • Dental anesthesia complications

Stats On Dental Hygienist Lawsuits?

Dental hygienists are rarely sued in medical malpractice cases that name them specifically. Although it is possible, the dentist is typically the subject of legal action. It’s very unusual for dental hygienists to be named as a separate party in a lawsuit, however, they’re frequently included as an additional defendant.

The Top Dental Risks — And How to Reduce Them

Although it is impossible to prevent every patient from ever filing a lawsuit, it’s vital to understand what might put you in danger. Be aware of these five frequent risks – and how to avoid them – so they don’t cause long-term damage.

  • Risk 1: Failure to Obtain Consent

If you don’t obtain the patient’s permission for a treatment or procedure, you may be sued for malpractice. A patient must agree to X-rays necessary to diagnose a sickness, as well as give you permission to perform any actions.

Prevention Strategy: 

Make sure you obtain informed consent, meaning that you should provide your patient with a written document that specifies the treatment’s criteria and requirements. To ensure they know what you will do and the expected outcomes, walk them through it in person. Have them sign the document afterward to make sure they understand what you’re doing and the intended results.

  • Risk 2: Failure to Diagnose

Not detecting a problem is one of the most serious negligence risks. It’s especially critical with oral cancer when there’s a treatment gap.

Prevention Strategy: Make oral cancer screening a standard component of each patient visit, and inform the patient about it. You could still be sued for doing this.

“Most general dentists have a $1 million policy in coverage. Even if you botch an entire palate and are required to replace all of the teeth, you’ll rarely go over that amount. However, for diagnosed oral cancer, it is essential.”

  • Risk 3: Failed Treatment

Many risks may be present as a result of tooth damage or injury, especially those that result from root canals, implants, veneers, restorations, crowns, and other surgeries. Patients can also make this type of malpractice claim if you miss any type of deterioration, decay, or inflammation during your exam. In many instances, these smaller problems can lead to bigger issues with more involved procedures later down the line.

Prevention Strategy: It is good procedure to create a checklist of steps that “must” be completed for each procedure. By creating a checklist, you have a standard operation procedure that can help you ensure treatment will be as successful as possible. A standardized checklist can also remind you to check for any other type of damage, decay, or inflammation that could result in more significant problems.

  • Risk 4: Questionable Advice

Questionable advice claims result when a patient believes that you did not give them qualified direction on their dental health issues. The patient may believe that you didn’t discuss a condition or treatment in great enough depth so that they could act in their own best interest. Particularly problematic are situations where a patient believes that the dentist should have referred them to a specialist to handle their particular dental issues. 

Prevention Strategy: Write down the advice you give patients in their medical record. Details are essential when charting advice given to a patient, and it’s important to mention any referrals to specialists. It’s essential to confirm that your patient listens and understands any advice given and you may even have the patient repeat it back to your for confirmation.

  • Risk 5: Nerve Damage

Nerve damage can be a serious cause of ongoing pain and debilitation to a dental patient. Nerve damage may result from a tooth extraction or anesthesia administered which can cause a dental malpractice lawsuit.

Prevention Strategy: Infiltration techniques and adjusting anesthesia levels are extremely important to preventing nerve damage. Each patient has individual needs and requirements that must be accounted for in any treatment procedure.

5 Risk Management Tips For Dentists

Though you face multiple risks, there are things you can do to help prevent a medical malpractice claim. Keep these in mind, and you’ll have a better chance of avoiding litigation.

  • Dental Chart, chart, chart!

Take detailed notes during every patient encounter and include them in the chart, he advised.

“Almost all dentists need to chart better. The dental chart is the most crucial defense evidence in a lawsuit or if it’s a dental board case since it documents what they did and didn’t do as well as what they did and didn’t tell the patient.”

Verbalize everything, including your errors and how you addressed them, in the chart (and tell the patient while they’re there). Above all else, never erase anything from the patient file. It will always be a flashing red light.

  • Educate your dental patient

When you finish a high-volume surgery, such as an implant or extraction, patients sometimes believe they are no longer required to see you again. They must be made aware that it is not the case. Describe the procedure and any future dental treatments in detail. This establishes the patient’s expectation that they will return for cleanings and other required services.

  • Communicate

You should never jump into treatment without first discussing it with your patient. You can’t just assume they understand what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. Explain procedures in simple terms, and offer them the chance to ask any questions they may have. This is an excellent opportunity to give them informed consent forms.

  • Follow up

It’s no secret that many patients fall through the cracks. They cancel their appointment or simply do not show up. Don’t let it go unpunished. Create a written policy forcing your office staff to contact no-shows. It might be for a cleaning or a tooth filling. Make an effort to stay in touch with all of your patients so you don’t miss out on any potential diagnoses.

  • Pay Attention To Dental Board Letters

Each dentist can expect to face three to five malpractice claims throughout their career. You’ll receive a letter from the Dental Board if this happens. Take it seriously even if you believe you’ve done nothing wrong. Maintain all requested information and assist with their inquiry. It’s a good idea to contact your insurance provider, too, in case anything goes wrong. They may also be able to recommend legal counsel if you need it.

Final Thoughts On Dental Malpractice

Medical malpractice claims are both a significant and manageable component of your dental career. Medical malpractice lawsuits can represent a considerable danger, even if they are just a tiny part of your practice. Keep the top dangers in mind when you walk into each patient visit to ensure you offer the finest possible care. Develop a process and establish connections with your patients that will assist you to minimize the danger of litigation as much as possible, including malpractice caused by dental assistants.

However, there are other ways to protect your dental practice from financial disasters. Consider purchasing an insurance policy that will provide you with the greatest level of protection possible. If you’re named in a lawsuit, such a policy should cover your practice, money, and even your reputation.

Explore If You Have A Dental Malpractice Claim

If you believe you have a strong dental malpractice claim, you must contact an experienced dental malpractice lawyer at Texas Personal Injury Lawyers immediately for a free case evaluation.