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) What is the Process of a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit?

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) Do I Have a Case for Dental Malpractice?

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) How are dental negligence cases funded?

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 Malpractice?

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) What is dental negligence?


What are the most common lawsuits against dentists? ›

Wrongful, Delayed, or Failed Diagnosis

One of the most common types of dental malpractice lawsuits involves the wrongful or delayed diagnosis of a patient. In such cases, these delayed or erroneous diagnoses can lead to injury, unnecessary treatments and medical expenses, and death.

What is the most common reason a dentist will have a malpractice lawsuit brought against them? ›

Negligence is the basis for most dental malpractice lawsuits. Those injured by improper dental care must prove the four elements of a claim and seek as much compensation as possible so that recovery may resolve the matter entirely. The dentist must have a duty of care to the patient.

What is an example of negligence in dentistry? ›

Dental malpractice occurs whenever a dentist's acts or omissions fall below a professional standard of care. Common examples include injury novocaine or anesthesia problems, injuries to the oral nerves, infections, improper tooth extractions and even wrongful death due to complications of dental injuries.

What are the essential elements of malpractice in dentistry? ›

Common Types of Dental Malpractice
  • failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis;
  • using dental instruments incorrectly;
  • failure to detect/treat complications;
  • improperly administering anesthesia;
  • unnecessary treatment/procedure;
  • improperly monitoring patient;
  • defective/broken equipment;

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 is the difference between malpractice and negligence in dentistry? ›

Dental negligence occurs when a dentist fails to carry out necessary treatment or fails to diagnose a condition, which a dentist would normally be expected to. Malpractice can take the form of inappropriate or substandard work, which may result in a negative impact on the patient.

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.

How can a dental team best protect themselves from a lawsuit? ›

Defend yourself against medical malpractice suits with proper notes and documentation. No dentist wants to be sued. One of the best ways to either avoid a lawsuit or defend yourself and your practice in a lawsuit is for the dentist and staff to maintain consistent documentation of patient care.

What are the best defenses against a malpractice suit dental? ›

What are the best defenses against a malpractice suit? Prevention and good communication between provider and patient are the best defenses against malpractice.

What are the 4 examples of negligence? ›

While seemingly straightforward, the concept of negligence itself can also be broken down into four types of negligence: gross negligence, comparative negligence, contributory negligence, and vicarious negligence or vicarious liability.

How long does a dental negligence claim take? ›

The length of time a dental negligence claim may take will vary on a case by case basis. On the average however, dental negligence claims may take between one year and six months to two years. In certain cases, it may take longer than that.

Which element of malpractice is hardest to prove? ›

Many articles discuss what negligence is and how to prove it, but the least understood element among these four is causation. Additionally, out of these four elements, causation is typically the most difficult to prove, especially in medical malpractice cases.

What are five types of malpractice? ›

The types of medical malpractice are as follows, starting with the five most common types:
  • Misdiagnosis. ...
  • Surgical errors. ...
  • Failure to treat. ...
  • Birth injuries. ...
  • Prescription drug errors. ...
  • Negligent cosmetic procedures. ...
  • Dental Mistakes. ...
  • Care Home Negligence.

What is the first element of proof in successful malpractice? ›

The injured patient must show that the physician acted negligently in rendering care, and that such negligence resulted in injury. 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 are three examples of unethical? ›

Asking for recognition for someone else's job, calling in sick to go to the hill station, sabotaging someone else's work, and, in sales, falsifying the product or service to fulfill the target are all examples of unethical behavior in the workplace.

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 is an example of Nonmaleficence in dentistry? ›

Not taking X-rays for so long is a form of nonmaleficence, and it does not benefit the patient and can harm the patient due to undetected periodontal disease, decay, pathology, and more.

What elements must be proven in order to be successful in a negligence suit? ›

The four elements that a plaintiff must prove to win a negligence suit are 1) Duty, 2) Breach, 3) Cause, and 4) Harm.

How do you determine malpractice and negligence? ›

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

What are the elements to determine negligence or malpractice? ›

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. Your lawyer may help you meet the elements necessary to prove your claim, build a successful case, and help you receive the monetary award you deserve.

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 must be proven by the plaintiff in order to recover on a claim of negligence? ›

Proving Negligence. Most civil lawsuits for injuries allege the wrongdoer was negligent. 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 are some legal issues in dentistry? ›

Most legal issues related to dental practice involve civil wrongs or torts; that is, wrongful acts or injuries, not involving breach of contract, for which an individual can bring a civil action for damages. Malpractice is part of the law of negligence, which constitutes one kind of tort.

How do you argue dental insurance claims? ›

A proper appeal involves sending the carrier a written request to reconsider the claim. Additional documentation should be included to give the carrier a clearer picture of why you recommended the treatment and why you feel the claim should be reconsidered.

Who is ultimately responsible for the actions that occur in the dental office? ›

As noted with lasers, all licensees are responsible for their individual actions with the dentist being ultimately responsible for all care provided in each dental office.

What is a common complaint of dental staff members? ›

Common Complaints Filed
  • Use of a controlled substance, or dangerous drug, or alcoholic beverage during practice of dentistry.
  • Conviction of a crime.
  • Improper advertising.
  • Illegal use or duplication of license.
  • False or fictitious name use.
  • Gross negligence.
  • Repeated negligent acts.
  • Incompetence.

What are the 3 key principles of defenses in a malpractice lawsuit? ›

The key elements of every type of medical malpractice claim, whether it's for birth injuries or injuries to children and adults, are: The physician owed the patient a duty of care. The physician violated the standard of competent care. The lack of competent care causes the patient injuries or death.

What are the four elements required for a claim of malpractice *? ›

In order to successfully pursue a medical malpractice suit, the patient must prove the four (4) elements of medical negligence. The four (4) elements are (1) duty; (2) breach; (3) injury; and (4) proximate causation.

What is the highest malpractice settlement? ›

Top 10 Medical Malpractice Settlements in the United States in 2020
Attorneys:E. Drew Britcher, Armand Leone of Britcher Leone
Case:Tejada v. Hoboken University Medical Center
55 more rows

What are the 4 things that need to be proven to be deemed negligent? ›

A Guide to the 4 Elements of Negligence
  • A Duty of Care. A duty of care is essentially an obligation that one party has toward another party to exercise a reasonable level of care given the circumstances. ...
  • A Breach of Duty. ...
  • Causation. ...
  • Damages.
Nov 12, 2020

What is the formula for negligence? ›

1. Under the Learned Hand test, an actor is negligent if "B < (P x L)," where "B" refers to the burden of taking a precaution, 'P" to the probability of a loss if the precaution is not taken, and "L" to the magnitude of such a loss. See United States v. Carroll Towing Co., 159 F.

What is willful negligence? ›

Willful Negligence legal definition: Willful negligence is defined as conduct that deliberately disregards the health, safety and welfare of another person.

What happens from 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.

Why are dental claims denied? ›

Ignoring incorrectly filled patient information such as misspelled names, wrong insurance details, etc is one of the major causes leading to a denial of dental claims. It is because, in a world of technology, most of the claims are rejected by the software itself due to mismatched information.

How long does a dentist Have to investigate a complaint? ›

We endeavour to deal with any concerns in a timely manner and we hope to resolve any complaints at the first point of contact. However, if an investigation is required we will acknowledge the complaint within three working days and endeavour to respond in full within twenty working days.

What 3 elements must a claimant prove to be successful in a negligence claim? ›

Negligence—what are the key ingredients to establish a claim in negligence?
  • duty of care.
  • breach of that duty.
  • damage (which is caused by the breach)
  • foreseeability of such damage.
Jan 27, 2023

What three factors must a claimant suing for negligence prove? ›

All three elements must be proven for a claim to succeed – duty, breach, and causation. It is fair to say that the causation element of a claim in a medical negligence claim is often the more difficult to prove.

Which is worse negligence or malpractice? ›

In other words, the biggest difference between medical negligence and malpractice suits is that a medical malpractice suit aims to prove that the professional's actions were intentionally reckless. To put it even more bluntly, medical malpractice is a graver charge than medical negligence.

What percentage of malpractice suits are successful? ›

According to one large-scale study of medical malpractice claims, physicians win: 80 to 90 percent of jury trials involving weak evidence of medical negligence. 70 percent of jury trials in borderline cases. 50 percent of cases with strong evidence of medical negligence.

How hard is it to win a malpractice lawsuit? ›

Finally, juries returned verdicts favoring medical providers in approximately 50% of cases featuring strong evidence of negligence. In short, the legally and factually complex nature of a medical malpractice claim means the odds favor medical providers at trial.

What is an example of malpractice in dentistry? ›

Dental malpractice occurs whenever a dentist's acts or omissions fall below a professional standard of care. Common examples include injury novocaine or anesthesia problems, injuries to the oral nerves, infections, improper tooth extractions and even wrongful death due to complications of dental injuries.

What is the difference between liability and malpractice? ›

Malpractice insurance is another name for professional liability insurance for legal or medical professionals. No matter what it's called, professional liability policies offer coverage if you make a mistake in your professional service.

What are the 4 C's of 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 are the 5 defenses to negligence? ›

The defences include contributory negligence, comparative negligence, assumption of risk, Act of God, inevitable accidents, and volenti non fit injuria.

Are dentists sued often? ›

Even though the dentist chair isn't the first thing people think of when they hear “medical malpractice,” dentists do get sued. Fortunately, the number is relatively small compared to other specialties. That said, all dentists should be prepared if a claim were to happen.

What is the biggest problem facing dentistry? ›

One of the many problems in the dental industry you'll face is finding new patients. Even if you've managed to overcome the financial issues inherent to opening a new dental practice, finding new patients is one challenge that requires dedication, a productive team and serious networking.

What is tort in dentistry? ›

Tort is a wrongful act in which the injured party can seek recovery for damages in a civil action. In dentistry we have a professional duty to our patients. If something goes wrong or if a patient is unhappy with their care or treatment, it will involve Tort Law.

How do dentists deal with failure? ›

Self-care is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself, both as a person and as a successful dentist. Treat your days off like days off. Pursue your hobbies and personal interests. Make time to play with your kids or go out with friends and family.

What are the three major categories of legal considerations in dentistry? ›

There are three major categories of legal considerations with which the dental assistant should be familiar regarding the use of x-rays in dentistry:
  • Federal and state regulations regarding x-ray equipment and its use.
  • Licensure for individuals exposing radiographs.
  • Risk management for avoiding potential lawsuits.

What is an act of omission in dentistry? ›

In dental treatment, professional malpractice is defined as any act or omission by a dental specialist, or someone under their direction, during the treatment of a patient that deviates from the accepted standard of care and causes harm to the patient.

Are most dentists in debt? ›

The average dental school graduate owes $293,900 in student loan debt. The average public school graduate debt was $261,230. The average private school graduate debt was $354,900.

Are dentists judgmental? ›

Oral health professionals and hygienists don't judge because they're happy that you're seeking treatment to improve your oral health. There are many reasons people have the oral health that they have; be it lack of information, no check-ups as a child, socio-economic reasons or extreme anxiety and shame.

What are 3 medical issues that can arise from poor dental health? ›

Some of the most common diseases that impact our oral health include cavities (tooth decay), gum (periodontal) disease, and oral cancer.

What is the number one reason people avoid dental care? ›

1. COST. Cost is the number one reason why people avoid seeing the dentist, according to a recent survey from the American Dental Association. But what many people don't realize is that postponing a dental appointment and care can actually cost more money in the long run.

How many dental practices fail? ›

Dentists should feel confident that they are poised to be successful in a great profession in which there is a failure rate of less than 1% because they have invested several hundred thousand dollars in themselves-the wisest investment they could make.

What is dental abandonment? ›

2. F. Patient Abandonment. Once a dentist has undertaken a course of treatment, the dentist should not discontinue that treatment without giving the patient adequate notice and the opportunity to obtain the services of another dentist.


1. Dental Malpractice 101
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2. What Should I Avoid if I Am Considering a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit?
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3. Dental Negligence Claims - Suing A Dentist
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4. B.C. woman suing dentist; 7 other ex-patients also filing suit
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5. Five Common Reasons for Filing a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit | Dental Malpractice - Episode 1
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