Many Illinois residents falsely believe that only doctors can be found liable in medical malpractice lawsuits, however, all medical professionals, including dentists, can be found guilty of making medical errors. Dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons and other dental professionals are required to provide a medical standard of care that other dental professionals with like training and skills would use when treating a patient under similar circumstances.
Dental Errors and Medical Malpractice
When most people visit the dentist, injury and medical errors are the last things on their mind. Dentists, orthodontists and oral surgeons are entrusted with the care of children and adults and most of the time, a visit to a dental professional is a fairly painless process. For many Illinois residents, however, their dental trip ended in suffering.
Across the state of Illinois, there have been numerous recent incidents involving dental professionals who have made significant dental errors. Following a root canal, one Illinois senior experienced ongoing and agonizing pain. After follow up at another dental practice, she learned that some surgical equipment had been left behind, following the procedure. Another Illinois resident discovered a metal surgical file via an X-ray when he began experiencing stomach pain following his root canal.
Root canals are not the only procedures that have ended with dental malpractice claims. A young Illinois woman suffered permanent damage to the roots of her teeth after an orthodontist incorrectly attached braces. This led to both medical and cosmetic injuries. A patient with significant tooth decay that was not diagnosed had her tooth filled, rather than having the proper procedure performed that would have prevented the permanent pain and nerve damage that she now suffers with. Yet another patient was unnecessarily prescribed an antibiotic that caused him a serious digestive disorder.
Just as doctors may be found liable for medical negligence, so can dental professionals. Many dental malpractice cases involve situations such as:
- Unnecessary or improper extraction of teeth
- Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of medical conditions like oral cancer or periodontal disease
- Wrongful administered anesthesia
- Infections caused by improperly sterilized equipment
- Complications with bridges and crowns
- Unwarranted delay of treatment
- Lack of informed consent for treatment
- Error during a dental procedure or surgery that causes injury to a patient
- Medication errors
Dental malpractice is usually related to injuries of the mouth or jaw. Patients can sustain serious and permanent injuries to the nerves in the lips, chin, jaw or tongue as the result of dental medical malpractice and dental malpractice has even been linked to patient deaths. Injured parties may also experience loss of sensation or the sense of taste or temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly known as TMJ, which can make it difficult to speak and eat. Dental injuries have caused partial loss to the jaw bone, significant bleeding and hemorrhaging, painful bruising, unnecessary tooth loss and permanent scarring. Unfortunately, oral health has also been linked to overall health. An injury to the mouth area due to a dental procedure can have a lasting effect on a person’s overall health.
Dental Malpractice Lawsuits
Like any medical malpractice case, a dental malpractice case generally involves medical malpractice lawyers who work with the patient to establish the existence of the dentist-patient relationship and find evidence that the appropriate medical standard of care for the circumstances was breached, causing harm to the patient. This medical standard of care refers to the level and type of care that a dental professional with similar skills would provide under similar treatment circumstances. This often involves the involvement of expert medical witnesses who are retained by the plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawyers. The expert would be a dental professional who had performed the same procedure previously.
Medical malpractice lawyers also assist plaintiffs to document the nature and severity of their injuries and what affect it has had to the patients comfort and lifestyle. In Illinois, there must be reasonable proof that the dental provider caused an injury or made an existing conditions worse as the direct result of their action or inaction. The severity of the injury will be taken into consideration, especially if it is particularly minor or serious.
Dental malpractice cases can have a lasting impact on those affected and their families. Just as with standard medical malpractice claims, injured parties in Illinois must file a suit within two years of the act that resulted in the injury. Compensation for dental malpractice injuries helps injured patients to pay for past and ongoing medical costs, loss of work and pain and suffering endured as a result of the injury. Medical malpractice attorneys can provide additional information regarding dental malpractice, the responsibilities of dentists and other oral care professionals and compensation that may be available to the injured.