What is Dental Malpractice?

Madeleine Jones
September 25, 2018

If something goes wrong during a dental exam or procedure, most people don’t immediately think of malpractice. In fact, most patients don’t know what dental malpractice is or what their legal options are after becoming a victim of negligent dental care. Dental malpractice is a type of civil wrong in which a dental professional breaches a duty of care to a patient, resulting in patient harm or death. Learn more about dental malpractice laws in Nevada to protect your rights as a victim.

If you or a family member was seriously injured due to dental negligence, contact a Las Vegas personal injury lawyer at Cogburn Law Offices today for a free case consultation.

Nevada’s Malpractice Laws and Statutes

Nevada’s professional malpractice laws are in Chapter 41A of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS). The definition of “professional negligence” under law is the failure of a health care provider (such as a dentist or licensed dental assistant) to use reasonable care and skill in rendering services to patients. “Reasonable” care refers to what an ordinarily trained and experienced health care provider in the same profession would do in similar circumstances.

Proving dental malpractice, like medical malpractice, takes four main elements.

  1. The victim will need to show that he or she had a professional relationship with the dentist or other health care professional at the time of the incident. A person cannot file a claim, for instance, if an off-duty dentist gave bad advice at a cocktail party.
  2. The victim will need to show that the dentist breached his/her duties of care according to the parameters of the professional relationship. A breach can mean doing something a reasonable dentist would not have done or failing to act as another dentist would have acted in the same situation.
  3. A plaintiff will need proof that the dentist’s act of negligence caused his or her injuries. There must be direct causation between the dentist’s actions and the patient’s harm.
  4. Finally, it is necessary to show the defendant caused real and compensable damages, such as medical bills, personal injuries, property damage, lost wages, or pain and suffering.

These four elements make up the basis of a dental malpractice claim in Nevada. In addition to the four main elements, a claimant will also need an affidavit of merit, signed by a medical expert. Hiring a dental malpractice attorney can make these processes much easier on victims.

Examples of Dental Malpractice

Dental malpractice occurs when a dentist fails to fulfill accepted standards of medical care and in doing so injures a patient. With millions of dental procedures occurring in the U.S. every year, malpractice may seem inevitable. If all dental health care professionals adhered to the expected standards of care, however, thousands of patients would not suffer unnecessary harms. The following are common examples of dental malpractice:

  • Improper tooth extractions. Tooth-pulling requires care and attention to prevent complications such as serious nerve damage. If a dentist negligently perforates the sinuses or damages a nerve during extraction, the patient can suffer permanent harm.
  • Failure to notice oral health problems. While a dentist is carrying out his or her job, it is his/her duty to reasonably detect other oral health problems, including oral cancer. Monitoring for oral cancer is one of the main duties of a dentist during an exam. Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis could lead to a malpractice claim.
  • Adverse reaction to dental care drugs. Administering powerful drugs and sedatives takes adequate care and attention to detail. Small mistakes in the amount or type of drug given to a patient could cause allergic reactions or adverse drug interactions.

Contact an Attorney Today

It is a dentist’s duty to listen to a patient’s symptoms or complaints, recommend proper treatments, clean and care for teeth properly, and carry out procedures with the utmost care. A breach of any of these duties puts the patient at risk of serious injuries. If any dental office employee or contractor causes you an injury, contact a Las Vegas medical malpractice lawyer to discuss a potential dental malpractice claim. You could be eligible for a money award.