Bone graft now required because cavity and bone loss were overlooked...

by Chris

Four days ago, I went to my dentist for my semi-annual cleaning. An assisting dentist from another office (Dentist A) gave me my initial evaluation. He first asked me if I had any concerns, and I told him that my back, upper molar on the left side seemed to be moving.

He said it could have just been from minor gum disease since I'd had issues in the past with food getting trapped in that area. Without taking any new x-rays, Dentist A took a quick look at my teeth and told me I needed a root canal in the tooth that had moved.

I asked him about pain and complications related to a root canal, and he told me, "I'm so sure you won't be in any pain I'd stake my career on it." He also stated that a root canal now would be less costly and require less healing time than an implant later.

Trusting the doctor, I agreed to do the root canal the same day, which was to be done by my regular dentist (Dentist B). Several hours later, the first part of the procedure was done, and I was told I would only have to come back in two weeks for the permanent crown and I'd be all set.

Two days later (yesterday), my tooth--now with a temporary crown--had been moving again, causing me intense pain in not only the area of the "repaired" tooth, but in my lower tooth, jaw, head, and neck.

I went back in to have him grind the tooth down to adjust my bite. I was in so much pain, I cried during most of that visit. My dentist (Dentist B) told me that, upon review of the x-rays taken during the root canal procedure two days prior, he noticed that I had significant bone loss behind the tooth, which would cause the tooth to "drift."

He told me that I may need to see a bone specialist after we get the permanent crown placed, and that he wanted to see me in two more days. (This was last night.)

Despite taking several prescribed medications for pain, I was in unbearable pain the rest of the evening, and into the night. Today, my tooth continues to "drift," causing me intense pain and preventing me from eating any sort of solid foods.

I now have to wait until tomorrow to see him again. My work is also suffering because of the oral discomfort and being lightheaded from the medication. I'd already scheduled tomorrow off as a vacation day, but I'll be spending the afternoon in the dentist's office instead of with my family.

My questions are:

1. Why didn't the dentist I saw six months ago (Dentist C) notice that I needed a filling then? Dentist A showed me those x-rays on this recent visit, and it was apparent that I should have had a filling at that time. This could have prevented the root canal by preventing further tooth decay. Is this negligence?

2. The subsequent tooth decay requiring a root canal led to gum disease, leading to bone loss, leading to a drifting tooth. Now I need a bone graft. Getting the root canal was probably unnecessary since, either way now, I now need oral surgery, and possibly an implant anyway.

What can I do for the needless suffering and useless root canal procedure? Can I receive payment for damages based on pain and suffering? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Bone graft now required because cavity and bone loss were overlooked...":

Chris (MI):

Your presentation implies a question about whether or not the initial dentist committed dental malpractice. It appears the dentist did overlook the cavity and bone loss. Whether or not this constitutes dental malpractice is questionable.

Dental malpractice is defined as "professional negligence by by a healthcare provider where the treatment provided, or the treatment which failed to be provided, falls beneath the accepted standard of practice in the dental community and causes injury or death to the patient."

To establish dental malpractice would require you to prove other dentists in the community would certainly have noticed the cavity and bone loss, and upon noticing that loss would have taken prompt action to do whatever was reasonably necessary to protect you from harm and unnecessary pain.

Because physicians and dentists rarely admit to having committed malpractice, you can be sure that to recover any amount will require you to retain a personal injury attorney with experience in medical and/or dental malpractice cases.

However, because your "damages" do not appear to be sufficient to require the dentist to pay a substantial amount of money for his or her mistakes, it is likely an attorney won't accept your case.

That leaves you to decide whether or not you want to sue the dentist yourself...unfortunately, you can’t. You are not an attorney, and there is virtually no way you could ever effectively pursue your case against the dentist and the dentist's insurance company's seasoned attorneys.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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