3 Warning Signs of Dental Malpractice

When you sit in the dentist’s chair, you expect to receive quality care. You trust your dentist to treat you gently and professionally, and you hope that your teeth come away healthier and brighter for the service.

But not all dental visits end with patient satisfaction.

According to statistics from the American Board of Legal Medicine, approximately 13.1% of malpractice claims involve dentists. The most common claims feature poorly sterilized equipment, complications due to extractions, and failure to recognize oral diseases.

Naturally, you want don’t want to become another statistic, but how can you tell if your dentist is neglecting your care?

1. Your Dentist Fails to Ask for Your Medical History

When you step into any medical office for the first time, the assistant or receptionist will usually hand you a clipboard with several pages of paperwork. These pages will give your dentist a complete medical history, letting him or her know about any medications you are taking, if you have any allergies, and whether you have health conditions that would affect treatment.

Although you may feel a little annoyed at the idea of filling out paperwork again and again, your medical professional should always ask for an updated history with each sequential visit, even if your current situation hasn’t changed. This paperwork will help your dentist give you more thorough, precise care, and if he or she skips the medical history, your dentist may not have enough information to provide a proper diagnosis.

2. Your Dentist Works Without an Assistant Nearby

Your dentist often has to juggle multiple patients at the same time. While you wait in the chair, he or she may have to check the x-rays in one room and then quickly dart over to fill a cavity for a child in the next room over.

To minimize your wait time and ensure you receive comprehensive care, a dental assistant may take your initial x-rays, prepare you for treatment, and sterilize the dental instruments. When the dentist finally joins you in the room, the assistant will continue to help by handing instruments during the procedure and keeping your mouth dry with suction hoses and similar equipment.

But a dental assistant does more than reduce wait times. He or she also protects you from the chance of abuse, accidents, or neglect. The more witnesses present to your procedure, the more protection you have against dental malpractice.

If your dentist works alone and closes the door during your treatment, his or her actions might be suspect.

3. Your Dentist Rushes Through the Examination

When you are in a rush, you may feel tempted to cut right to the chase. You want your usual cleaning, possibly a few fillings, and then you’re on your way. Hopefully, you won’t have to stop by the office for another six months.

But though you want to hurry, your dentist should never speed through the
examination process. A reliable dentist will thoroughly check for any sign of decay or inflammation. He or she will x-ray your teeth, check your bite, and probe your gums. If anything seems out of the ordinary, your dentist will examine you further before providing a diagnosis and treatment.

Should your dentist rush the examination, he or she may miss telltale signs of periodontal disease and bone loss. Fillings, extractions, implants, and similar procedures could then lead to infections and complications that not only cost you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars to correct, but that may also result in permanent damage.

Talk to a Lawyer if You Suspect Dental Malpractice

If you look for these three signs, you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim of dental malpractice. However, you should note that some cases are more complicated than an outdated medical history or a missing assistant.

If your most recent dental visit involved unnecessary extractions, scare tactics for additional procedures, or adverse reactions to drugs, talk to a personal injury lawyer about your situation. You may be able to file a claim and receive compensation for your injuries.

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