Visitor Question

Broke off drill file in my bone…

Submitted By: Maggie (Bolingbrook, IL)

I went in for a routine root canal. The dentist started and before he drilled made the comment to the assistant, “we need to be careful as we don’t want it to break.” I didn’t think much of it at the time, being under anesthetic, but as he has working, there was a loud SNAP.

He immediately rolled his chair back, looked at the assistant, and ran to get another dentist. He did not say anything to me.

Then a few dentists came up and attempted to get the drill file out, unsuccessfully. I was then told that they broke a piece off and could not get it out.

I was then told that this was actually a good thing, as they would pay for my crown… Are you kidding me?! They took an X-ray to see where it was, and they could not see the end of the file it went so high up.

It’s also worth noting that at this point my root canal was not finished, and there was a drill file logged in my nerve causing the worst pain I have ever felt. They then sent me off to a surgeon to remove the file, but I had to drive! They had ME, fresh off their pain meds, in excruciating pain, crying and having a panic attack, drive to a surgeon.

The first, yes first, surgeon they sent me too told me he had no way of putting me out, or gas or anything, and I would be awake with the pain while he attempted to get it out…not happening.

I left and was sent to the second place. They took an X-ray and found that there was 2-3 inches of the file in up past my tooth bed, where it should have never been. They said normally if a file breaks it’s a few millimeters.

They attempted to remove the file, unsuccessfully. They had to break up, and sucking as much as they could, and finish the root canal. By now it had been 6 hours of pain, 3 to 4 X-rays, lots of novocaine, gas, pain meds, ect. The file is still lodged in my jaw.

Now I am in terrible pain, and am told I either have to live with the file in me forever (on the off chance it causes no issues), have surgery to remove part of my jaw to get at the file, and may still loose my tooth as there is risk of infection and abscess.

I have a heart condition, so a jaw infection is very serious with potentially life threatening consequences. Oh, and at minimum I still need a crown!

This has to be malpractice, correct? I am now looking at thousands of dollars when it should have been $900 total. It was $1500 just to remove the file, if they could! What can I do here? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Maggie,

The facts you present seem to substantiate a claim for dental malpractice. With that said, believe it or not, there may be a valid argument against it being malpractice.

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

The question arises as to whether or not the possibility of a broken file is part and parcel of the type of surgery your were having. The answer is probably not, but it’s noteworthy to understand how the definition of dental malpractice applies in your case.

Seek out several personal injury attorneys in your area. Try to find ones with medical and/or dental malpractice experience. Many malpractice attorneys list the types of cases they have won for their clients and the amounts they have secured on their websites. Be sure to bring copies of your medical records to your consultations.

Hopefully you won’t have much trouble finding an attorney to accept your case. Because of your injury and the prognosis for more and unnecessary surgery (resulting in further pain and discomfort), your attorney should be able to secure a substantial settlement.

Learn more here: Filing a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


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