A study of 242 Negligence Cases in dentistry
242 medical law cases over twelve years were assessed for dental malpractice. Most of the cases evaluated existed on the basis of patients who claimed malpractice.
For patients, the below may provide validation and concern regarding problems before, during, and after treatment by a professional. This particular study did not assess the merit of legal standing; however, should provide insight into the common errors and issues faced during treatment.
Table 1: Results of dental extraction failure
- 23 cases of infections resulting in hospitalization among which 8 cases recorded fatalities
- 14 cases of broken mandible
- 8 cases of disconnected lingual nerve
- 2 cases of severed inferior alveolar nerve
- 7 cases of sinus perforation
- 4 cases of TMJ injuries
- 5 cases of removal of incorrect teeth
Total number of cases recorded: 63
23 victims affected by the infection were hospitalized; out of which 8 patients expired due to the infection. In the cases related to sinus perforation, the dental practitioner neither diagnosed nor suggested the perforation treatment to the patient.
Improper diagnosis and wrong treatment leads to mandibular rupture and TMJ damage. In alleged negligence cases, around 50 defendants were general dentists; 12 defendants were oral practitioners.
Regarding root canals:
Table 2: Problems associated with Endodontic procedures:
- Cases of hospitalization because of infection including 4 fatalities – 22
- Instruments spoilt during treatment: 9
- Because of Nerve injury: 3
- Some other damages: 3
- Air embolisms cases: 2
- Sinus perforation: 2
Some cases involved surgical tools left in canals, nerve and sinus perforations, as well as air embolisms, or life threatening infections. In the serious case of infections, there were 7 which were because of brain abscesses. One was because of osteomyelitis. Out of these, 4 cases were of fatalities and remaining 4 got affected of brain damage.
Total number of cases in Endodontic procedures: 41
Regarding dental implants:
Table 3: Problems in dental implant measures:
- Postoperative illness – 1
- Unreasonable implants – 9
- Implant loss cases – 6
- Fracture in jaw – 1
- Implants placed in nerves – 8
Total cases in dental implant surgery: 25
Dental implant surgery is the third and most common source of alleged negligence.
It was found that in the dental implant surgery, around 2 to 10 implants were gradually lost.
Regarding crowns and bridges:
Table 4: Difficulties faced because of Crown and Bridge cure
Total number of cases: 20
These complications are more difficult to categorize. Generally, these treatments included complaints of overhanging, open margins, restorations, and deprived occlusion. Full mouth reconstructions were the main difficulty in this case. General dentists were the defendants.
Regarding braces and orthodontia:
Table 5: Problems in Orthodontic Treatment
- TMJ injury – 4
- Root resorption- 14
Total cases in Orthodontic Treatment: 18
Failure to detect or cure periodontal disease was the fifth and most common alleged carelessness in dental actions. There were eighteen cases under this category, and defendants were general dentists. Mainly, these included cases in which x-rays were not done regularly, and periodontal probing was rare or not recorded.
Another common source of alleged negligence pertains administration of anesthesia, which supports the striking number of deaths during extractions. There were twelve claims and eight patient fatalities.
Some dental negligence includes nerve damage because of dental injections. Many of these patients suffered damage to the lingual nerve, and lower alveolar nerve. Other more specific instances of negligence under this category related to drug interactions.
Miscellaneous dental malpractice injuries:
- 2 complicated drill injuries
- 1 undisclosed x-tip fracture
- Benadryl put inside inferior alveolar nerve
- 1 undiagnosed needle fracture
- Lidocaine put into the eye
- These cases led to damages to the patients.
Conclusions for patients:
With respect to oral surgeries in this case study, all of the general dentists were sued due to alleged negligence due to complications with extractions. A dentist can easily misjudge the difficulty of an extraction and cause a patient to suffer long term complications and future visits with a specialist. Against general dentists, the second highest malpractice claims pertain to Endodontic treatment.
Regarding implant surgery, treatment preparation or poor assessment of the patient led to claims. Many of the orthodontic claims were results of root resorption, which affects the health and quality of roots; a doctor must x-ray often to ensure this does not become a complication.
Pain and suffering resulting from the complications in this study can last a lifetime. If you suspect you have been a victim of dental malpractice and/or negligence, contact our office to schedule a consultation to speak with an attorney (215) 942-2100.