The National Practitioner Data Bank, which was created by Congress to track information about malpractice claims, reports that there are about 8,500 dental malpractice lawsuits every year. Among the many different medical mistakes that are made by careless dentists, one of the most common is wrong-site tooth extraction. If your dentist pulled the wrong tooth, you should know about your legal rights as a dental malpractice victim. Depending on certain factors, you could be eligible for financial compensation.
How Often Does Wrong-Site Tooth Extraction Happen?
According to a 2010 study published in Quintessence International, a peer-reviewed dental journal, Medical Consultants International (MCI) received 54 insurance claims for wrong-site tooth extractions from 1993 to 2004. Averaged out, that’s about four and a half cases per year. Even when you round this annual average down to four, that still means a dental practitioner pulls the wrong tooth about once every three months.
The study determined that 72% (about 39) of the incorrect extractions were performed by general practitioners. The study did not specify by whom the remaining 28% of wrong-site extractions were performed, but did note that in about half the cases, patients were referred by orthodontists (dentists who specialize in braces and bite alignment).
Unsurprisingly, the study concluded that the leading causes of wrong-site extractions were “errors during treatment” and “poor communication among clinicians.” Toward a solution, the study recommended “greater caution on the part of the extracting clinician” – not exactly a reassuring message for people who already have phobias about going to the dentist. The study also recommended the development of clinical guidelines.
In fact, such guidelines already existed, though to be fair, they were published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in 2007 – three years after the study period covered by Quintessence ended. These guidelines acknowledge that, as of the 2007 publish date, “Wrong-site tooth extraction continues to be one of the major reasons for filing malpractice claims against oral and maxillofacial [jaw and face] surgeons, despite education, training, and the requirements for risk management courses.” Frustratingly, the study adds that “most cases of wrong-site tooth extractions are preventable.”
It also notes that “there have been few articles reported in the literature regarding wrong-site tooth extraction, and it is probably underreported,” which means the 54 claims cited by Quintessence probably represent only a conservative fraction of the actual number.
Did My Dentist Commit Malpractice by Pulling Healthy Teeth?
Dentists, like all medical professionals, have a duty of care to their patients, which means they must avoid breaching the standard of care and causing injury or wrongful death. Pulling the wrong tooth is usually a careless and avoidable mistake which dentists are not reasonably expected to make. If your dentist extracted the wrong tooth, you could have a strong malpractice case. However, in order to be awarded damages, or compensation, you will have to prove a few elements:
- You had a formal patient-doctor relationship with your dentist. Meeting this criteria is very straightforward in the majority of cases.
- The dentist failed to meet (breached) the normal standard of care. This means the dentist did something – in this case, removing the incorrect tooth – which a reasonable dentist would not have done under the same set of circumstances.
- The dentist’s breach resulted in damages (harm) to the patient. Negative effects of having the wrong tooth pulled include:
- Medical expenses (e.g. prescription medications, the cost of getting an implant to replace the healthy tooth that was accidentally removed).
- Loss in earnings caused by taking time off of work.
- Pain and suffering caused by the removal of the tooth.
- Any physical injuries the patient might have sustained during or due to the tooth removal procedure, such as nerve damage or infection.
Notably, the Maxillofacial guidelines pointed out the following statistics about incorrect tooth extraction:
- “Approximately 23% of wrong-site tooth extraction cases settled before a suit was filed.”
- “Unlike many of the other claims where a large percentage was defensible, 46% of all wrong-site tooth extraction claims were settled with an indemnity payment.”
- “4% of wrong-site tooth extraction cases proceeded to trial with 53% favorable verdicts for the plaintiff and 47% favorable for the defendant.”
If you or your child’s dentist pulled the wrong tooth, don’t assume there’s nothing you can do about it: you deserve to have the situation investigated by an aggressive, experienced medical malpractice attorney. Brent Wieand will fight hard to recover the maximum compensation possible for you and your family, because he believes that negligent dentists should be held accountable for the terrible pain, suffering, and financial losses they inflict upon trusting patients.
To start talking about your tooth extraction in a free, private legal consultation, call injury attorney Brent Wieand right away at (800) 481-5206. Brent serves clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Philadelphia and Atlantic City.