What Constitutes Dental Negligence?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell
Failure to exercise care in surgery can open a dentist up to a dental negligence lawsuit.
Failure to exercise care in surgery can open a dentist up to a dental negligence lawsuit.

Dental negligence, like all forms of negligence, stems from a failure to exercise reasonable care. Negligence is a facet of common law tort law. The specifics of what is required to prove negligence vary by jurisdiction, but the general premise is that a person failed to act with the care and up to the standards that wider society would consider reasonable. In dentistry, negligence usually relates to treatments that have gone bad, misdiagnoses, or injuries caused by a failure to abide by certain industry best practices. Any failure of a dentist to deliver safe and standard care can constitute dental negligence.

Most dental negligence cases are marked by a patient injury.
Most dental negligence cases are marked by a patient injury.

Not all dental injuries trace their roots to dental negligence. Negligence law does not penalize unavoidable damage or injuries that were sustained despite a dentist’s best efforts. A dentist can only be liable for negligence if he somehow acted in a way that was below the reasonably expected standard, or if he acted in disregard of industry practice guidelines or regulations.

An incorrect dental diagnosis may be cause for a dental negligence claim.
An incorrect dental diagnosis may be cause for a dental negligence claim.

Dentists are medical professionals, and as such, they are held to certain standards of expected care. They are expected to properly diagnose dental conditions, for instance, and to thoroughly finish all dental procedures. The exercise of care in examinations and surgeries, and the prescription of appropriate and reasonable medications and home treatments all fall within the purview of dentists. Failure in these or other areas can open a dentist up to a dental negligence lawsuit.

Most dentists carry malpractice insurance.
Most dentists carry malpractice insurance.

There are many types of negligence, and any dentist can at times be a negligent dentist. Most negligence cases are marked by a patient injury. A patient who feels immense pain after a routine dental procedure or a patient who feels that a dental condition was not properly treated may hire a dental negligence lawyer to investigate the possibility of suing for dental negligence. A lawyer considering such a case will seek to understand the nature of the patient’s suffering, and to discern the cause. If the cause was related to some action or inaction on the part of the dentist, there may be grounds for a negligence suit.

Neglecting dental hygiene can cause bad breath.
Neglecting dental hygiene can cause bad breath.

Most of the time, dental negligence cases are brought as dental malpractice cases. Most jurisdictions include negligence within medical malpractice. Regardless of the theory under which the case is brought, however, it will center on a failure to provide competent or otherwise reasonable care at some specific moment. Because mistakes happen and dentists sometimes get it wrong, dentists usually carry malpractice insurance that will cover the costs of a negligence lawsuit and indemnify the dentist against any personal liability. Malpractice insurance is typically quite costly to maintain, and becomes more so the more a dentist is accused of negligent practice.

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    • Failure to exercise care in surgery can open a dentist up to a dental negligence lawsuit.
      Failure to exercise care in surgery can open a dentist up to a dental negligence lawsuit.
    • Most dental negligence cases are marked by a patient injury.
      Most dental negligence cases are marked by a patient injury.
    • An incorrect dental diagnosis may be cause for a dental negligence claim.
      An incorrect dental diagnosis may be cause for a dental negligence claim.
    • Most dentists carry malpractice insurance.
      Most dentists carry malpractice insurance.
    • Neglecting dental hygiene can cause bad breath.
      Neglecting dental hygiene can cause bad breath.
    • Injury or harm due to a misdiagnosis may warrant a dental negligence claim.
      Injury or harm due to a misdiagnosis may warrant a dental negligence claim.