Is this endodontist liable for missing my infection?

by Janie
(Lubbock, TX, USA)

I had a toothache, but my regular dentist was out due to surgery. She sent me back to the endodontist who had given me a root canal (on tooth #14) approximately 18 months ago. He, too, was out of the office so I saw one of his partners.

To treat my toothache, he began a root canal but said there was an infection that needed to clear up. I was scheduled to have the post placed and the treatment finished 5 weeks later. I began experiencing strange pain in the gum above the tooth about a week before my appointment. When I went in to have the root canal finished, I mentioned the pain.

The dentist just blew it off, said it was "too high up" to be my tooth, and finished the treatment. He said that I probably had a sinus infection. After this I began a horrible painful journey. This dentist insisted that it couldn't be the tooth and said I had trigeminal neuralgia, which is a terribly painful disorder.

I was terrified and my family physician put me on the standard protocol drug for this disorder, Tegretol. The medicine made me very ill. I went to my regular dentist who called this endodontist. He didn't offer to see me again and dismissed us with the trigeminal neuralgia diagnosis over the phone.

I had many sleepless nights, pain, swelling, and the entire left side of my body developed severe joint stiffness and pain. I had to get that tooth out! I went to an oral surgeon who took enough X-rays until he found the problem. It was an infection at the root of the tooth. It was surgically removed the next day and the relief was immediate.

I have sent a personal letter requesting a refund from the endodontist since the root canal treatment has damaged a nerve and failed in less than three months. I also have asked for reimbursement for extracting and restoring the tooth.

My current oral surgeon is amazing. I saw his partner today due to developing an ulcer at the extraction site. His partner wanted permission to call my endodontist. I had to say no and tell him I planned to sue the endodontist. It was very tense after that.

Do I have grounds to ask for money back? Will other local medical professionals find out about the lawsuit and refuse to treat me? What can I do?

Visitor Question:
Disclaimer: Information provided in our response is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Under no circumstances should the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Our response does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Always get a formal case review from a licensed attorney in your area.

ANSWER for "Is this endodontist liable for missing my infection?":

Janie (Lubbock, TX, USA):

If you haven’t been dismissed as a patient by your oral surgeon yet, don’t be surprised if it soon occurs. You can be confident as soon as you told your current oral surgeon you plan to sue your former endodontist, you sealed your fate with him and likely his partners. He may have thought if you were going to sue one dentist, there remains a possibility, however remote, that you may sue him as well.

We would question your reasoning for prohibiting your current oral surgeon from contacting your former endodontist. Regardless of whether you plan to sue your former endodontist or not, why would you prohibit your current oral surgeon from contacting your former endodontist? Your current oral surgeon obviously wanted to do so in an effort to understand your dental problems to better serve you.

You ask if other local medical professionals will know if you sue your former endodontist. It is likely physicians won’t know, but it is probable other local dentists, endodontists, oral surgeons, and other dental professionals will know about the lawsuit. As a result, and if you indeed file a lawsuit, you may a difficult time finding another dental professional in the Lubbock area to treat you.

Whether or not the endodontist should reimburse you will require proof that the endodontist's actions caused you unnecessary pain. To discover that information will require dental opinions from other dental professionals in your area. You can only hope your statement about suing your former endodontist doesn’t travel. If it does, you may have to go to Midland, or elsewhere.

In any event, you will have to consult with an experienced malpractice attorney to discover whether you have the basis for a lawsuit. Most reputable attorneys have medical experts they can consult to determine if your former endodontist's actions rose to the level of malpractice.

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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