Can I Sue a Dentist for a Bad Root Canal?
Root canals are one of the most common dental procedures in the United States and millions of Americans undergo these procedures every year. Dentists are medical professionals and therefore have a duty of care to their patients to meet the standard of care for every patient’s condition. Each patient is unique, and every dental issue will involve its own challenges and complications, and honest mistakes sometimes happen. However, if a dentist harms a patient due to negligence or failure to meet the standard of care for the patient’s condition, the patient may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Establishing Medical Malpractice
The first step in pursuing a medical malpractice claim is establishing the standard of care the plaintiff should have received for his or her situation. Every medical procedure entails a degree of risk, and if the dentist made a foreseeable honest mistake and did everything possible to fix it, the patient would have a difficult time proving negligence. However, if the dentist made some kind of negligent error that resulted in harm to the patient, the patient would likely have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.
Proving a mistake occurred is only one facet to a medical malpractice lawsuit against a dentist. If he or she made a mistake and fixed it immediately during the root canal procedure, the patient may not suffer any noticeable harm from the error. Root canals entail various possible risks of patient harm.
- A root canal requires the use of a small dental drill to expose the infected pulp inside the target tooth. If a dentist fails to use the drill correctly it could cause a serious traumatic injury in the patient’s mouth.
- Root canals are extremely painful procedures without appropriate use of anesthetic. If a dentist botches an anesthesia injection, it could potentially cause nerve damage or provide insufficient pain relief for the plaintiff during the procedure.
- If the dentist rushed a root canal procedure and sealed the tooth without fully removing all infected pulp, the infection may continue to worsen and require additional procedures to fix.
Nerve injury is the most commonly cited reason for medical malpractice claims for root canals. If a dentist negligently injures the patient’s nerves, the injury could result in numbness, loss of sensation, changes in sensation, or even loss of control over the jaw. These injuries can affect the patient’s ability to speak, eat, or drink. They may also require additional corrective procedures, long-term therapy to restore function, or result in permanent damage.
Other Possible Forms of Dental Negligence
Dentists have the same professional responsibilities as all medical professionals when it comes to securing informed consent from patients. If a dentist recommends a root canal, the dentist should thoroughly explain the reason for the recommendation to the plaintiff and discuss the associated risks so the plaintiff can make an informed decision about his or her treatment. Failing to secure informed consent can constitute medical malpractice if the patient suffers harm as a result.
Dentists may also face medical malpractice lawsuits for failure to provide patients with appropriate aftercare instructions following root canal procedures. After a root canal, a patient may be limited in terms of what he or she can do with his or her mouth and foods he or she can safely eat. If a dentist fails to cover aftercare with a patient and the patient suffers harm, the patient likely has grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit against the dentist.
If you or a loved one recently underwent a root canal procedure and experienced extreme pain, nerve damage, or the dentist failed to secure informed consent for the procedure, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim against the dentist. A local medical malpractice attorney can help you assess the full scope of your damages and determine the odds of succeeding with your claim.