Understanding Dental Negligence Lawsuits (2023)

Can You Sue a Dentist For Bad Dental Work?

Yes, you may sue a dentist for bad dental work. This is referred to as dental malpractice and is related to medical malpractice. In order to sue your dentist, you must be able to prove that they did not provide the standard level of care required from a dentist, dental hygienist, or another dental health care provider and that their failure caused serious injury.

How to Prove Dental Malpractice

At , weassist clients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with dental malpractice claims. Unfortunately, we can't assist those from other states with their claims, but chances are the concept of dental malpractice is similar in other regions.

Because malpractice is a legal term, there’s a very specific definition for what is and what isn’t dental negligence. Thetreatment hadto cause serious personal injuries to you; otherwise, it can’t be considered malpractice. In cases where individuals seek compensation for dental malpractice that doesn’t meet these requirements, their cases are dismissed.

Understanding Dental Negligence Lawsuits (1)

How to Sue a Dentist

To sue a dentist for medical malpractice, you must be able to provethat you suffered an injury as a result of a dentist’s provision of sub-standard care. To establish proof when suing a dentist, you will need to prove these four principles: Duty, Breach of Duty,Causation, and Damages.

Though there are anumber of adverse symptoms of dental malpractice, you must consult your legal attorney and specify your conditions and concerns to evaluate your possible claims.

(Video) Do I Have a Case for Dental Malpractice?

Dental Malpractice Cases Require Proper Documentation

One of the most important defenses in a dental malpractice case is proper documentation. The patient’s dental record must contain a clear chronology of events, future treatment plans, and all the important communication between the dentist and patient.

Comprehensive documentation also includes:

  • A copy of the written informed consent for any procedures that were done
  • A clear record of the patient’s history
  • A clear treatment plan (including documentation explaining the reason for any treatment for which the patient has been billed), and
  • Notes were written at or near the time of the patient’s treatment.

Keep in mind that many people will examine the dental record if there is a lawsuit. Missing pages, inconsistencies, or unclear documentation will be problematic for the defense.

Reasons to Sue a Dentist

  • Anesthesia Complications
  • Failure to Diagnose Oral Diseases or Cancers
  • Injuries to Oral Nerves
  • Complications with Bridges and Crowns
  • Tooth Extraction Problems
  • Root Canal Injuries
  • Complications from Novocain
  • Infections
  • Wrongful Death

If you believe you may have a reason to sue a dentist, you may want to discuss your case with an attorney. Our attorneys at have the knowledge and experience to go to work for you and help you understand your rights. If you believe you have a reason to sue a dentist, contact us today.

Wonder if you have a case? Contact our firm to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case with an attorney today!

(Video) How are dental negligence cases funded?

10 Dental Negligence Case Examples

Here are 10 dental negligence cases that can help you determine if you’re a victim of dental medical negligence:

Case #1: Extractions

In the infection requiring hospitalization subset, all patients were hospitalized, and of these, eight patients died from the infections. In the severed nerve subset, the injuries were permanent and the dentists involved did not refer or follow up the nerve injuries. In the sinus perforation subset, the dentists neither diagnosed nor referred the patient for treatment of the perforations. One perforation was due to a bur perforating the sinus. The bur fractured and was left in the sinus with no referral or attempt at retrieval. Lack of diagnosis and treatment also existed with the mandibular fractures and TMJ injuries. Of the defendants, 51 were general dentists and 12 were oral surgeons.

Case #2: Endodontic Procedures

The second most common alleged negligence was due to endodontic procedures. Of the above negligence claims due to endodontic procedures, all of the defendants were general dentists. The complications included instruments left in canals, nerve and sinus perforations, air embolisms, and life-threatening infections, including four fatalities. Of the life-threatening infections, seven were due to brain abscesses, and one due to osteomyelitis. Of these eight infections, four were fatalities and four resulted in irreversible brain damage.

Case #3: Dental Implants

In the implant loss subset, two to 10 implants were lost, and treatment planning was alleged to be deficient to non-existent. The patient with the post-operative infection succumbed to the infection. In 24 of the negligence claims involving dental implant surgery, the defendants were general dentists, and one was a periodontist.

Case #4: Substandard Crown, Bridge Treatment.

It is difficult to categorize this group into subsets because most of the treatments included numerous complaints including open margins, overhanging restorations, and poor occlusion. All cases involved multiple units or “full-mouth reconstructions.” There was a universal lack of treatment planning in these cases. All defendants were general dentists.

(Video) Five Common Reasons for Filing a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit | Dental Malpractice - Episode 1

Case #5: Periodontal Disease

There were 19 cases of failure to diagnose or treat periodontal disease in a timely fashion. All defendants were general dentists. In the majority of these cases, X-rays were not taken routinely, and periodontal probings were rarely or never recorded.

Case #6: Orthodontics

There were 18 total cases of orthodontic treatment complications and 14 cases in the subset of root resorption. Numerous teeth per patient were seriously affected and the majority of these teeth were lost. Radiographs were not routinely taken. Of the treating dentists in the category, six were orthodontists and 12 were general dentists. The remaining four cases involved TMJ injury.

Case #7: Dental Anesthesia Complications

This category tied with extractions for the most fatalities. There were 12 claims with eight patient fatalities. Of the eight deaths, three were children. Of the defendants, four were oral surgeons, two were pedodontists, and six were general dentists.

Case #8: Dental Infections

There were 11 malpractice claims under this category. The infections resulted in four fatalities, two brain abscesses, and one case of septic arthritis. Nine defendants were general dentists, and two were oral surgeons.

Case #9: Dental Injections

Of these 10 cases, seven affected the lingual nerve; three involved the inferior alveolar nerve. In all cases, the dentists allegedly were made aware they had hit the nerve, but did not withdraw the needle and reinject as suggested in the dental literature. In addition, the dentists neither followed up the injuries nor referred them to be followed. Seven defendants were general dentists, and three were oral surgeons.

(Video) What is dental negligence?

Case #10: Adverse Drug Reactions

In all five cases, the drug administered was contraindicated by the patient’s medical history. There were two fatalities in this category. One defendant was a periodontist; the other four were general dentists.

Schedule a FREE Consultation Today

The Philadelphia dental malpractice attorneys at Ginsburg & Associates Trial Lawyers are proud to provide knowledgeable guidance, customized legal services, and dedicated representation to the residents of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. If you’ve been injured by a negligent dental professional within these states, we can help.

Our attorneys have a comprehensive understanding of this multifaceted legal process and can effectively guide you through each step of proving your dental malpractice case. During your appointment, we can discuss your case, explain your legal options, and evaluate the injury-related expenses you’ve incurred as a result of the dentist’s act of negligence. After thoroughly investigating the incident, we can construct a personalized case strategy that reflects your unique goals and legal objectives.

Contact our attorneys at (215) 564-4400 to schedule a free, no-risk consultation.
We are proud to provide exceptional legal services to the residents of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.


(Video) Dental Negligence Claims - Suing A Dentist


What are the four D's that must be present for a lawsuit against a dentist to be successful? ›

To be successful, any medical negligence claim must demonstrate that four specific elements exist. These elements, the “4 Ds” of medical negligence, are (1) duty, (2) deviation from the standard of care, (3) damages, and (4) direct cause.

What is it called when a dentist is negligent for not meeting the standard of care? ›

What is it called when a dentist is negligent for not meeting the standard of care? Res gestae.

Why is malpractice insurance so expensive and important for the dental practice what does it do? ›

In the event of a malpractice claim, whether the accusation is true or not, dental professionals could be expected to pay large amounts in judgement, settlement or legal fees. The best protection against a financially damaging lawsuit and high legal fees is medical malpractice insurance.

What is the definition of dental malpractice? ›

Dental negligence, otherwise known as dental malpractice, is a type of personal injury that occurs when a dental professional fails to competently perform their duties based on a professional standard of care, resulting in harm to the patient.

What are the best defenses against a malpractice suit in dentistry? ›

The three most common defense strategies are:
  • Rejecting expert testimony by presenting conflicting expert testimony.
  • Attempting to reduce or eliminate approximated damages claimed.
  • Trying to disprove causation (i.e. the connection between your injury and your dentist's negligence)
Nov 13, 2021

What is the best defense against a malpractice suit? ›

Best practices in medical malpractice defense
  • Insurance.
  • Bedside manner matters.
  • Avoid communication problems.
  • Nuances of informed consent.
  • The importance of documentation.
  • Steps to take after a lawsuit is filed.
  • Get a lawyer immediately.
  • Prepare for deposition or pretrial statement.
Sep 28, 2022

What is considered unethical in dentistry? ›

Unnecessary Services. A dentist who recommends or performs unnecessary dental services or procedures is engaged in unethical conduct. The dentist's ethical obligation in this matter applies regardless of the type of practice arrangement or contractual obligations in which he or she provides patient care.

What are examples of dental neglect? ›

Common features of dental neglect include a failure to provide basic oral care (oral hygiene, proper diet, and establishment of a dental home), failure to seek treatment for oral pain, and untreated infection (Noble et al.

What is a dental abandonment? ›

Patient Abandonment Defined

It's when a dentist unexpectedly dismisses a patient without providing a reasonable excuse and/or leaving enough time to find a new dentist before the dentist/patient relationship ends.

What is the most common dental malpractice? ›

The Most Common Type of Dental Negligence Is Associated with Extractions. Though having a tooth pulled may seem to be a simple matter, extractions statistically result in the most frequent dental malpractice claims, especially when performed by general dentists rather than oral surgeons.

Which doctors pay the most for malpractice insurance? ›

The Specialty Affects Premiums

Therefore, doctors in specialties that are considered higher risk pay more for their malpractice insurance. Typically, surgeons, anesthesiologists and OB/GYN physicians are charged higher premiums.

Which medical specialty do you think has the highest malpractice insurance and why? ›

Neurosurgery. The NEJM found nearly 1 in 5 neurosurgeons have faced a malpractice case, making it the most frequent target of lawsuits.

Is dentist responsible for failed filling? ›

​​​​​​​When you have spent time and money on getting a dental filling, suffering from a problem with it can be very frustrating, not to mention painful. If you have had a cavity filling that you feel has been done improperly, your dentist may be liable for failure to fulfill their duty of care to you.

What is another term for malpractice in dentistry? ›

Dental injury is another term for dental malpractice. Instead of defrauding a patient, malpractice occurs when the dentist fails to give the patient the standard of care to which they are legally entitled.

What is malpractice a claim of? ›

A: A medical malpractice claim is a claim of negligence committed by a professional health care provider -- such as a doctor, nurse, dentist, technician, hospital or hospital worker -- whose treatment of a patient departs from a standard of care met by those with similar training and experience, resulting in personal ...

Which element of malpractice is hardest to prove? ›

The hardest element of a medical malpractice case to prove is the breach of the duty of care, the second element. This is because proving that the medical provider acted in a way that was not reasonable can be difficult.

What are the four major criteria for a successful malpractice lawsuit? ›

To do so, four legal elements must be proven: (1) a professional duty owed to the patient; (2) breach of such duty; (3) injury caused by the breach; and (4) resulting damages.

What 4 elements must be present to have a malpractice suit? ›

What Are The Four Elements Of Medical Malpractice?
  • The doctor or facility owed a professional duty of care.
  • There was a breach of duty.
  • The victim suffered injuries as a result of the negligence.
  • There were financial or intangible losses.

What are the three C's to prevent malpractice? ›

Prevent, Communicate, Document: Medical Malpractice Data Help Us Manage Risk | The Doctors Company.

Why is it so hard to win a malpractice case? ›

The expenses for a viable medical malpractice case are high.

Because medical malpractice cases are so expensive, the decision to pursue one must be made very carefully: It is difficult—and therefore expensive—to demonstrate to a jury that a healthcare provider acted unreasonably.

What is typically the second step in a malpractice lawsuit? ›

Step 2: Gather Records

Once we're ready to move forward, you will be asked to sign a retainer and a contingency fee agreement, which details what the law firm's fees and expenses will be if your case is won. We'll also ask you to authorize us to obtain your medical records.

What are the 5 ethics of dentistry? ›

There are five fundamental principles that form the foundation of the ADA Code: patient autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, justice and veracity.

What is a dental misrepresentation? ›

By definition, dental fraud is any act of intentional deception or misrepresentation of treatment facts made for the purpose of gaining unauthorized benefits. Acts of dental fraud contain three defining features: intent, deception, and unlawful gain.

What is nonmaleficence in dentistry? ›

SECTION 2 — Principle: Nonmaleficence ("do no harm").

The dentist has a duty to refrain from harming the patient. This principle expresses the concept that professionals have a duty to protect the patient from harm.

What are the three major dental problems? ›

There are many different problems that can affect your teeth, including: Tooth decay - damage to a tooth's surface, which can lead to cavities. Abscess - a pocket of pus, caused by a tooth infection. Impacted tooth - a tooth did not erupt (break through the gum) when it should have.

What are three diseases of most concern to dental healthcare workers? ›

Most cases are dental caries (tooth decay), periodontal diseases, tooth loss and oral cancers. Other oral conditions of public health importance are orofacial clefts, noma (severe gangrenous disease starting in the mouth mostly affecting children) and oro-dental trauma.

What is the most serious problem arising from neglect of primary teeth? ›

Primary teeth can develop cavities. Aside from the pain caused by cavities, infections can occur, causing tooth decay. Primary tooth decay is extremely serious, as it is infectious and can rapidly spread and lead to abscesses.

Can you reverse dental neglect? ›

Keep Your Gums Healthy From Periodontal Disease

Gingivitis isn't a permanent condition, so if you catch it early enough, you can reverse any damage done, restore oral health, and avoid periodontitis. The main takeaway is you have to see a dentist regularly.

What are the two types of statutory law in dentistry? ›

40 Cards in this Set
What are the two types of statutory lawCriminal Law Civil Law
A level of supervision in which the dentist has given instructions, but need not be physically present at the time the expanded functions are being performed by the dental auxiliaryGeneral Supervision
38 more rows

What happens when you neglect your dental health? ›

Neglecting this can cause infections in your teeth and gums that can lead to tooth decay, gum disease (periodontitis), tooth loss, dry mouth, mouth ulcers, and other problems that can create the climate for worsening dental health.

What is the most common traumatic dental injury? ›

Traumatic dental injuries often occur as a result of an accident or sports injury. The majority of these injuries are minor - chipped teeth. It's less common to dislodge your tooth or have it knocked completely out but these injuries are more severe.

What are the four most common errors that could lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit? ›

Learn the legal options that may be available to you by scheduling a consultation today.
  • Misdiagnosis And Failure To Diagnose. ...
  • Prescription Errors. ...
  • Surgical Errors. ...
  • Anesthesia Errors. ...
  • Childbirth Errors.

What is the dentist failure rate? ›

Dental implants have a high success rate, but some people experience dental implant failure. It's estimated that about 5 to 10 percent of dental implants fail, either shortly after a procedure or months or years later.

What type of doctor has lowest malpractice insurance? ›

Family general practice, pediatrics, and psychiatry are the specialties that are least likely to be sued for medical malpractice.

What state has the highest malpractice insurance? ›

The Most Expensive

New York has some of the highest malpractice rates in the country, and it also has some of the highest award payouts in malpractice lawsuits.

What is the largest malpractice settlement? ›

Ten of the Largest Medical Malpractice Verdicts of 2022
  • $111 million verdict in Minnesota: Thapa v. ...
  • $97.4 million verdict in Iowa: Kromphardt v. ...
  • $77 million verdict in Georgia: The Estate of Nicholas Carusillo v. ...
  • $75 million verdict in Georgia: Buckelew v. ...
  • $68.8 million verdict in Florida: Crohan v.
Jan 17, 2023

What Doctors face the most lawsuits? ›

The specialists most likely to be sued are both general and specialized surgeons. General surgeons and plastic surgeons were first on the list with 83% reporting having been sued at least once in their careers.

What specialty is least likely to be sued? ›

Surgical specialities had the highest risk of being sued, and internal medicine subspecialties had the lowest risk. The specialties with the highest risk included obstetricians/gynecologists (62 percent) and general surgeons (59.3 percent).

Which medical professions get sued the most? ›

What is the most common reason for malpractice? Surgeons had the highest rate of medical malpractice lawsuits. The same Medscape survey asked surgeons the most common reasons for the lawsuits against them.

How do you know if your dentist is bad? ›

5 warning signs of a bad dentist
  1. They don't perform a comprehensive dental exam and history taking. ...
  2. They are mostly old-fashioned. ...
  3. They do not look hygienic. ...
  4. They have a bad reputation. ...
  5. They recommend and request unnecessary procedures.
May 12, 2021

What happens when a dentist messes up a filling? ›

If the filling has not been adequately prepared, the mixture may not bond properly to the tooth tissue and this may cause the filling to fall out or cause a gap, which could then allow further decay to form and lead to long lasting toothache as the pulp of the tooth becomes infected.

How common is it for fillings to fail? ›

In many cases, a dental filling failing is simply the result of time. While dental fillings are strong and durable, they do still wear out over time. You will probably need to have your filling replaced a few times throughout your life, and it isn't necessarily cause for concern.

What is it called when a dentist makes a mistake? ›

Malpractice findings can result in a reprimand of the dentist, fines or probation. In extreme cases, the dentist may lose his or her license to suspension or revocation. Patients can also take their dentist to court as part of a malpractice lawsuit.

What is malpractice vs negligence vs? ›

Negligence is usually a mistake and if the situation was different, the medical professional may have handled it differently. Medical malpractice is when a medical provider knows better, but still makes the wrong decision when treating a patient.

What is the most common example of negligence? ›

Incorrect medication prescriptions or administration of drugs is one of the most common cases of medical negligence reported. This can occur when a patient is prescribed the wrong drug for their illness, receives another patient's medication or receives an incorrect dosage of medication.

What is the difference between liability and malpractice? ›

Malpractice insurance protects professionals from allegations of malpractice. In contrast, professional liability insurance covers them for negligence or other misconduct claims. While both policies have similar names, they vary in scope and coverage options.

What are the four Ds or four elements that must be proven in malpractice cases? ›

To prove it, you need the four Ds of medical negligence. These four are Duty of care, Dereliction of duty, Direct causation, and Damages.

What 4 elements need to be present for a malpractice lawsuit to be filed? ›

There are four elements of medical malpractice, including a medical duty of care, breach of the duty, injury caused by the breach, and damages.

What are the four D's of four elements that must be proven in malpractice cases? ›

The four Ds of medical negligence are duty, dereliction, direct causation, and damages. All four of these elements must be proven for malpractice to be found.

What five 5 elements needed to be present to prove malpractice? ›

Do you want to hold another party accountable for their negligent behavior? Doing so means you and your lawyer must prove the five elements of negligence: duty, breach of duty, cause, in fact, proximate cause, and harm.

What are the 4 C's of medical malpractice? ›

Recognizing that you are an imperfect human being who will make mistakes, you can nevertheless reduce your risk of causing harm, and of being sued successfully. Start by practicing good risk management, building on the old adage of four Cs: compassion, communication, competence and charting.

What four components must be necessary for a person to bring a lawsuit of negligence against a first responder? ›

The Four Elements of Negligence Are Duty, Breach of Duty, Damages, and Causation.

What are the 4 elements of negligence that a plaintiff must prove and briefly describe each? ›

Negligence claims must prove four things in court: duty, breach, causation, and damages/harm. Generally speaking, when someone acts in a careless way and causes an injury to another person, under the legal principle of "negligence" the careless person will be legally liable for any resulting harm.

What situations are necessary components for malpractice to occur? ›

In order to prove negligence or malpractice, the following elements must be established:
  • Duty owed the patient;
  • Breach of duty owed the patient;
  • Foreseeability;
  • Causation;
  • Injury; and.
  • Damages.

What is breach of duty in law? ›

Breach of duty occurs when a person's conduct fails to meet an applicable standard of care. It is one of the four elements of negligence. If the defendant's conduct fails to meet the required standard of care, they are said to have breached that duty.

What is a professional duty owed to the patient? ›

What is duty of care? When it comes to medical malpractice cases, a doctor owes a patient a duty of care at all times. This means that the doctor must provide adequate care to patients that is similar to the care any other reasonable person would provide in a similar situation.

How is negligence proven? ›

To win in a negligence lawsuit, the victim must establish 4 elements: (1) the wrongdoer owed a duty to the victim, (2) the wrongdoer breached the duty, (3) the breach caused the injury (4) the victim suffered damages.

What elements of negligence must be proven in a lawsuit? ›

Four elements are required to establish a prima facie case of negligence:
  • the existence of a legal duty that the defendant owed to the plaintiff.
  • defendant's breach of that duty.
  • plaintiff's sufferance of an injury.
  • proof that defendant's breach caused the injury (typically defined through proximate cause)

What does the reasonable person standard impose on a person in a negligence lawsuit? ›

The reasonable person standard applies when the defendant could reasonably foresee how his conduct could cause harm or injury. If a reasonable person could not have foreseen that his conduct could injure someone, the defendant is not guilty of negligence.


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