Many people don’t enjoy going to the dentist due to fear of pain or dislike of someone else’s hands in their mouths.

However, dental care is an important health concern. Good dental hygiene improves your overall health. Regular checkups and cleanings can reduce the risk of developing gum disease, cavities, and other dental conditions. 

What happens when you go to the dentist, and the dentist makes an error or mistake that causes you injury? Is there a way to hold the dentist liable for failing to provide adequate care? Yes, you could file a dental malpractice lawsuit.

What is Dental Malpractice?

Like medical malpractice, dental malpractice involves errors, mistakes, or negligence resulting in harm or injury to the patient. In addition, the patient suffers damages because of the dentist’s breach of the duty of care. 

When a dentist commits malpractice, the dentist can be financially liable for any damages caused by their mistake. 

Common damages in a dental malpractice claim include:

  • The cost of dental treatment to repair the problem or treat the injury
  • Compensation for the person’s physical, emotional, and mental pain and suffering
  • The cost of medical expenses to treat secondary infections, complications, or other injuries caused by the malpractice
  • Compensation for permanent impairments or disabilities 
  • Reimbursement of loss of income 
  • Compensation for the loss of enjoyment of life

Some patients may make a full recovery after being injured by a dentist. However, other patients may sustain permanent nerve damage, loss of teeth, numbness, or loss of taste.

Some patients may develop TMJ disorder because of dental malpractice. Patients may develop infections or life-threatening complications. Dental malpractice could result in a wrongful death, exposure to diseases, and anesthesia injuries. 

Proving the Elements of Dental Malpractice 

The elements of a dental malpractice case are the same as the elements of a medical malpractice case. 

Proving negligence requires that you show:

  • The doctor owed you a duty of care
  • The doctor breached the duty of care through actions or failure to act
  • You sustained an injury because of the breach of care
  • You suffered damages

As with a medical provider, dental providers owe a duty of care to all their patients. They must act within the established standards of care when treating patients. The standard of care may be different under different circumstances. It is based on what a prudent dentist of similar background, experience, and education would have done to treat the patient under the same or similar circumstances.

The dentist breaches the duty of care when the dentist fails to provide the proper level of care for the situation. If the breach of duty is the direct and proximate cause of your injury AND you suffered damages, the dentist committed malpractice. However, if the error or mistake did not result in an injury or you did not suffer damages, the dentist is not guilty of malpractice. 

What Are Some Common Causes of Dental Malpractice?

When proving dental malpractice, you must prove that the dentist’s actions were not reasonable and caused your injury and damages. 

Some examples of how a dentist may breach the duty of care to commit dental malpractice include:

  • Infections caused by failure to sterilize equipment 
  • Installing braces, crowns, implants, and other devices incorrectly
  • Performing dental procedures that were not necessary
  • Extracting or performing a procedure on the wrong tooth
  • Failing to administer anesthesia properly
  • Prescribing the incorrect medication or dosage of medication
  • Failing to refer a patient to a specialist, such as an oral surgeon or orthodontist
  • Failure to obtain informed consent before performing a procedure
  • Failure to monitor the patient after dental procedures
  • Not keeping accurate medical records for each patient
  • Failing to diagnose a dental condition, such as gum disease or oral cancer
  • Misdiagnosing a condition and providing incorrect treatment
  • Causing disfigurement of the mouth or face or causing severe scarring

The compensation received for dental malpractice depends on the facts of the case. 

Some of the factors that impact the value of a dental malpractice claim include:

  • The type of dental error
  • The severity of the injuries caused by the error
  • Whether the injuries can be reversed 
  • Whether the injury results in a permanent disability or impairment
  • The degree of pain and suffering experienced by the patient
  • The amount of economic damages or financial losses

It can be difficult to place a value on a dental malpractice claim. A dental malpractice lawyer can evaluate your claim to determine options for suing the dentist to recover money for your injuries and damages.

Do not wait too long to speak with a lawyer. Your time to file a dental malpractice lawsuit is set by the Florida Statute of Limitations. If you do not sue your dentist before time runs out, you lose the right to pursue a legal claim for damages.