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If you get stressed out just thinking about the dentist, you’re in good company. According to WebMD, up to 20 percent of Americans avoid scheduling regular teeth cleanings because of dental anxiety.
You only get one set of permanent teeth, though, which is why it’s so important to take care of them. In addition to flossing once a day and brushing twice daily, this includes undergoing an oral exam every six months.
Unfortunately, even those who take perfect care of their pearly whites can end up with dental issues that require fairly invasive treatment. Undergoing a root canal procedure or extraction is even more nerve-wracking than a simple oral exam because there are a lot more opportunities for something to go wrong.
Dental malpractice is far more common than most people realize, and its victims know firsthand that there is nothing irrational about dental anxiety. Read on to learn about some of the most common types of malpractice that lead to dental negligence lawsuits:
1. Anesthesia Complications
Any medical procedure that requires the use of anesthesia puts patients at risk of experiencing complications. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, such complications can range in severity and duration and might include:
- Postoperative delirium;
- Cognitive dysfunction;
- Malignant hyperthermia;
- Pneuomothorax; and
- Nerve damage.
2. Delayed or Missed Diagnoses
Regular oral exams are a preventive measure that provide dentists the opportunity to diagnose and treat minor health issues before they turn into major concerns. If a dentist fails to assess a patient’s condition accurately despite any telling signs or symptoms, it can result in a malpractice claim.
3. Novocaine Complications
When a dental procedure calls for local anesthesia, the provider must review the patient’s medical history thoroughly to determine if there are any pre-existing conditions that will increase the risk of certain complications. Otherwise, the patient could experience an allergic reaction or even respiratory failure.
4. Wrong Tooth Errors
Wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient errors (WSPEs) may sound far-fetched, but they happen a lot more frequently than they should. An example of a WSPE during dental work might be the extraction or root canal treatment of the wrong tooth.
Any invasive dental procedure makes the mouth vulnerable to bacterial infections, which can have devastating repercussions if left untreated. According to Medical News Today, infections can lead to dental abscesses, which are essentially pockets of pus that accumulate in the gums or teeth.
If an abscess develops because of a recurring infection, all of the surrounding tissue may need to be surgically removed. Additionally, since the mouth is so vascular, any such infection could cause life-threatening complications in other parts of the body.
6. Orthodontic Complications
There are a lot of benefits of orthodontic treatment, but there are also a lot of risks. Sadly, even those who do extensive research on practitioners can end up receiving substandard care.
Orthodontic appliances can aggravate pre-existing conditions like decay or trauma, causing considerable damage over time. They can also cause root shortening and enamel demineralization, which make the teeth more likely to develop cavities or sensitivity.
Sometimes, the signs of dental malpractice are apparent immediately. In other cases, the symptoms of certain complications do not arise for days or weeks after the procedure. In cases of orthodontic complications, it could be months or even years before substandard care is apparent.
Regardless, every state has its own statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice claim. There are exceptions, but it typically ranges from one to four years.
Since evidence of liability can be time-sensitive, though, it is essential for people who think they have been the victim of dental malpractice to act fast. Otherwise, they may lose the chance to file a successful negligence lawsuit even if the deadline has not yet passed.