If something goes wrong during a dentist appointment, patients need to know whether or not they have become a victim of dental malpractice. Malpractice is commonly known as a form of professional negligence, during which the professional fails to abide by accepted professional standard. Victims of dental malpractice may have the right to potential damages; therefore, it is vital that patients know what qualifies as malpractice and what does not.
Injury Due to Negligence
To qualify as negligence, the dentist must have either intentionally or unintentionally committed an act that caused significant injury to a patient, and the act must be one that no other dental professional would have committed. Examples of injuries may include numbness, loss of taste, negligent administration of anesthesia, injuries to the nerves, and wrongful death resulting from dental procedures.
Delayed Diagnosis and Failure to Treat
When a patient requests the expert knowledge of a dentist, a proper and timely diagnosis is expected. Dentists who fail to quickly diagnose a patient's condition(s) may be guilty of dental malpractice. Malpractice suits may also involve dentists who have diagnosed a condition but delayed treatment. Patients entering a dentist's office should expect to be asked questions regarding their history, as well as undergo testing for conditions such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) or oral cancer, if symptoms present. Dentists must provide the same quality of care to each patient, and give patients the same treatment that they would receive from another dentist. Failure to do so may result in a malpractice case.
When considering treatment options, a dentist must inform patients of the risks involved and any possible side effects. The dentist must then receive the patient's consent before going forward with any treatment plan. The dentist must not provide treatment outside of the given consent, otherwise the patient may have grounds for a malpractice suit. However, a patient is not able to sue for malpractice due to ineffectiveness or expectations not being met by the treatment method, as the dentist is unable to guarantee the results.