Dentists are only human. Thus, they cannot be blamed for making mistakes in their practice from time to time. However, there are certain mistakes that are unacceptable because of the level of harm that they inflict on a patient.
Cases of serious dental malpractice are often rare and far apart. Patients who believe that they've fallen victim to dental malpractice in the hands of a dental health practitioner should find the information presented in this article useful.
Duty, Causation And Damage
Duty, causation and damage can be referred to as the three tenets of a dental malpractice case. Each tenet is discussed at length below:
- Duty: Dentists have a duty to diagnose and treat dental ailments/conditions in accordance with the standards of care spelt out by the Dental board of Australia. The basis for a dental malpractice case is that the dentist breached this duty by providing a sub-standard level of care. For example, a dentist who removes a wrong tooth during extraction will have breached his or her duty.
- Causation: This refers to the relationship between the dentist's "breach of duty" and the injury/harm suffered by the patient as a result of this breach. In a dental malpractice case, patients are required to prove that the dentist's breach of duty is responsible for their woes. For example, if a patient develops a gum infection at the site of the wrongly-extracted tooth soon after extraction, proving causation should be a breeze. If the infection is not caused by the removal of the wrong tooth however, proving causation might be an uphill task.
- Damage: Without proof of damage, a dental malpractice case is as good as closed. Damage in a malpractice suit can be financial, psychological or physical. The gum infection referred to above is an example of physical damage. Financial damage in this case would be the money spent to treat the gum infection after the tooth extraction. Psychological damage would be the thought of not having a perfect smile thanks to the wrongful extraction.
"Unsuccessful" Dental Procedures
It is important for patients to understand that a dental procedure whose results fall short of the patient's expectations will seldom constitute a breach of duty on the part of the dental health practitioner.
For example, a laser tooth whitening exercise that fails to yield "sufficiently white" teeth (such as those commonly featured in tooth whitening commercials) does not translate to a breach of duty.
Also, the fact that a dental condition may get worse after receiving dental treatment from a practitioner does not amount to a breach of duty.
Contact one of the lawyers in your area for more information.