Dentistry is one of the most important, yet less often used medical practices today. Dental health and hygiene is often overlooked, however, seeking the help of a general dentist can help you feel immediate relief from aches and pains, fix cosmetic issues, and even help you boost your confidence. Many people are reluctant to go to the dentist, however, because they are afraid of accidents that can occur during dental procedures, and even fear medical issues such as those that arise with anesthesia. In addition, popular culture has deemed dentists to be villains, and out to harm their patients. Quite the opposite is true. In fact, dentistry is considered one of the 10 most trusted and ethical professions in the United States!
Trusting your Dentist
You might be worried when getting work done with the dentist, but don’t be discouraged. It’s important to not neglect your dental hygiene and continue to get the proper oral care that is needed. If you haven’t gone to the dentist in a while, it’s okay to ask the proper questions and be genuinely curious about the care you’re about to receive. In addition, doing research on the dentist that you will get care from can prove to be beneficial. A well-reviewed and respected dentist that has been in business for a while might know how to handle and address your fears, pre-existing conditions, and refer you to the proper dentistry services.
Though it’s important to trust your dentist, once in a while, a bad apple can ruin the whole bunch, and a dentist, like other medical professionals, can be found to be involved in malpractice. What is considered malpractice for a dentist are serious issues that you should be able to look out for. Keep on the lookout for this generally bad customer service and malpractice issues when searching for a dentist. Keep in mind, however, that like all malpractice questions, you should consult a legal team to get you appropriate advice when you are looking for what is considered malpractice for a dentist. These 15 signs of possible dental malpractice can help you spot a dentist that might not be the right fit, and that you should avoid at all costs.
1. Not Properly Licensed
Dentists, like all other medical providers, must be licensed in the State they practice in order to provide you with dental care. Be wary of sketchy dentists that have no credentials displayed, don’t work with your insurance agency and take cash only, and have ridiculously low pricing. Failure to be licensed is what is considered malpractice for a dentist, so be on the lookout for dentists that offer to do house calls. No licensed dentist would do such a thing, and would only work out of a well-established medical office.
2. Billing Issues
Medicare and insurance fraud are serious crimes and are what is considered malpractice for a dentist and his office. Though most healthcare payers can use medical fraud detection software to help them spot potential fraud and abuse, you should also be on the lookout for possible signs of fraud as well. If you notice a bill that charges you for services not provided, double-billing, upcoding, and unbundling, contact a lawyer and get legal help right away.
3. No Safe HIPAA Practices
Protecting a patient’s privacy is of the utmost importance, and failure to do so can result in what is considered malpractice for a dentist, and any healthcare provider. If you walk into a dentist’s office, and clearly hear a patient’s name and information being discussed, see private information easily in your view, or even if your dentist discloses another patient’s information with you, walk away and find another dental office. It’s better to find another office than to possibly risk your information being shared with others.
4. Doesn’t Address Concerns
Failure to address a patient’s concerns leading to a worsening condition is what is considered malpractice for a dentist. If your dentist continually brushes off your questions, doesn’t give you the right treatment, and then you get worse from your condition, contact a medical malpractice lawyer right away. Also, look to other dental offices for advice. If you need help with things such as the average cost of braces, and your dentist simply refuses to answer your questions, this can be negligent, and it’s best to consult outside legal and medical help.
5. No Clear Treatment Record
Your consent means everything when you’re receiving medical care. If your dentist does more work than you consented to, this is a huge and what is considered malpractice for a dentist as well. It can be easier to prove your case if your dentist’s office is converting from paper to electronic medical record. This allows you to easily access a detailed treatment plan, and prove that your consent was not authorized for a certain procedure.
6. Not Properly Diagnosing
It can be disheartening to get a bad diagnoses such as oral cancer. However, it’s better to be diagnosed sooner rather than later. It’s important to know that failure to diagnose a disease is what is considered malpractice to a dentist. This includes gum disease, oral cancer, and other issues that can turn dangerous and fatal in the long run. Get a dentist who doesn’t hesitate to tell you the bad news, and who is diligent in getting you the proper diagnoses and treatment as quickly as possible. If you’re worried a bad diagnoses could prove expensive, remember that there are loan payments plans that your medical office can offer you to help you get treatment too.
7. Inappropriate Misconduct
Misconduct is extremely inappropriate for a dentist, and is what is considered malpractice for a dentist. If you find your dentist behaving inappropriately with you, making inappropriate suggestive, derogatory, or sexual comments, or even touches you without consent, this is extremely harmful. Not only is this malpractice, but also illegal. In addition, many reports have now risen of patients being molested while under anesthesia. Get help from the proper authorities right away, and notify a lawyer immediately.
8. Messed up Crowns and Fillings
Crowns and fillings are some of the most common treatments in dentistry. Both are used when cavities and tooth decay have taken over your teeth. Fillings are used after the decay is taken out and then filled up again, while crowns sit over your original teeth. Because they are so common, it can be easy to dismiss them as done correctly every time. This is not the case, however, and messed up crowns and fillings can be painful and lead you to have problems with chewing as well. Don’t let problems with these common procedures slide, and let your lawyer know right away that your procedure was botched.
9. Messed up Tooth Extractions
Like crowns and fillings, tooth extractions are commonplace in the dentistry world. Tooth extractions occur due to reasons related to cosmetic dentistry services (such as crowded teeth), in preparation for braces, or to remove impacted teeth. The most common of these impacted teeth occur in the wisdom tooth area, which is also the area where most tooth extractions occur. However, it isn’t unlikely that your dentist extracts the wrong teeth, doesn’t get the right tooth, or even ends up botching your tooth extraction job. If you feel this has happened to you, get legal advice, and help from another dentist.
10. Neglects Past Medical History
Past medical history is crucial to listen to, and without listening to it, your dentist can put you in a position to be injured or uncomfortable during a procedure. For instance, if an orthopedic doctor has told you that you must sit at a certain angle for a long period of time, if you are allergic to any medications including the popular dental numbing sedative novocaine, or if you’re simply afraid of needles, there’s no reason your dentist should ignore these important concerns. Find a dentist that is willing to listen to all your concerns, and that is willing to work with you to address those concerns. This can be easier said than done, so don’t give up looking.
11. Negative Reviews
It goes without saying that people rule the internet, and the internet is a great way to look up reviews on your future dentist. Though a bad review isn’t what is considered malpractice for a dentist, what is considered malpractice is the things certain patients might put on these reviews. These include things such as all the above-mentioned signs, personal lawsuits they’ve been involved in the past, and even are currently involved in with the dentist office. Look at reviews of other clients, and find a dentist that is reputable and has been in the business for a long time.
12. Recurrent Infections
Infections in your teeth can occur as a result of bacteria getting into your cavities, eating too much sugar or starch, and having a weak immune system among other things. However, sometimes an infection can occur due to the negligence and unsanitary practices of a dentist. In fact, infections are one of the top sources of malpractice lawsuits for dentists, and for good reason. Infections can lead to abscesses, which can lead to an extreme amount of pain, high fevers, nausea, and even sepsis and later on death. Don’t take an infection after a procedure lightly. Though you might be prescribed antibiotics after a procedure, if these alone cannot fight off an infection, seek medical help right away.
13. Improperly Using Tools
Using tools properly should be high on the list of skills for a dentist. Dentists should be trained to use sensitive tools that even employ the use of diamonds to cut through hard teeth. In addition, they should know the signs if one of these tools should break off, and be willing to fix it at no additional charge. If you notice after a procedure increased swelling, an infection, or throbbing pain, these may be signs that the dentist you visited wither accidentally or negligently left a piece of the broken tool inside your mouth. Seek immediate care, and discuss malpractice lawsuit options once the tool is extracted.
14. Causes Nerve Injuries
Unfortunately, not every procedure is successful, and dentistry procedures usually involve some level of pain in order to be completed. Though causing a little bit of pain isn’t what is considered malpractice for a dentist, what is considered malpractice is causing significant damage such as nerve damage. This can happen due to reasons mentioned above such as improperly using and leaving tools embedded in a patient’s mouth, tooth extractions, and root canals. The trigeminal nerve is the nerve that is most likely to be affected during these situations. Some symptoms of nerve damage include the inability to chew or speak, numbness in the area, tingling in the area, and more than likely pain. Sadly, nerves are hard to heal and take quite some time, so the severity of your nerve damage can also play a role in getting your legal team involved.
15. Problems During Anesthesia
One of the most serious, and most common, malpractice issues with dentistry occurs due to the use of anesthesia. Anesthesia is a medicine that is strictly controlled and carefully given to a patient to sedate him or her during a medical procedure, such as a wisdom tooth extraction. Sometimes your dentist might not use anesthesia and resort to only using Novacane to numb the area of your mouth he’s working on. However, when using anesthesia, serious issues can arise if your dentist mismanages the dosage. This is especially true in children, who can develop toxic levels of the drug that can lead to spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, and even death. Too little anesthesia can cause you to awaken in the middle of a procedure and cause years of trauma. If any of these issues have happened to you, get a lawyer to discuss malpractice due to mismanagement of anesthesia.
Above all, what is considered malpractice for a dentist is simply being negligent, causing injuries, and ignoring your consent. You have a right to seek the best medical care, and also the best legal care once you’ve decided you’re a victim of dental malpractice. Do your research for local lawyers, and local dentists that are highly trained, experience, and capable of helping you.