Dentists are doctors specializing in maintaining oral health for patients of all ages and treating gum diseases, dental caries, and other problems relating to jaw, hard palate, soft palate, teeth, or gums. There are further sub-specializations of orthodontics and oral surgery. Types of oral issues a dentist would diagnose and treat are:

  • Finding and fixing cavities
  • Wisdom teeth impactions
  • Root canals
  • Teeth cleanings (or a hygienist within the practice would do this)
  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontitis
  • TMJ
  • Infections or abscesses
  • Broken, cracked, or loose teeth
  • Tooth implants or dentures
  • Cleft palate
  • Teeth whitening procedures
  • Tooth erosion
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Seals or caps
  • Fluoride treatments

Dentists cannot fix teeth that are infected as this would give bacteria an opening to infect further tissues of the body. They often prescribe antibiotics for the infection and something for the pain before they can treat the tooth. Rarely do infections or the gums or teeth turn serious or life-threatening. An abscess either from infection or a failed root canal spreads into the bone of the jaw- this is called osteomyelitis.  An infection that spreads into connective tissue is called cellulitis. Osteomyelitis or cellulitis can happen concurrently with or before septicemia. This is when the bacterial load in the bloodstream reaches such proportions as to trigger an immune reaction that hurts the body rather than helping via the massive dumping of inflammatory cytokines throughout the body.  

Dentists can recommend procedures to patients that are sometimes unnecessary-for example, having non-infected baby teeth cavities filled or the teeth removed when the child will pull the teeth soon anyway. Another example of an unnecessary procedure or referral would be in a child’s case again, encouraging the parents to have orthodontic work done for something that will resolve itself if given more time- such as a tooth coming in. Medication errors are the most common error committed by any type of doctor. Informed consent could be a problem if a dentist finds and fixes a cavity while a patient is “out” and they learn of it later after the procedure is finished. The dentist needs to make sure that any work that is to be done is known about and approved beforehand. 

If you believe you or a loved one suffered a worsening of a condition due to a dentist failing to diagnose or treat an oral problem, you may be eligible for damages.  Contact the Sweeney Law Firm and let our experts review the facts to see if you have a dental medical malpractice case. There is no fee for representation unless there is a settlement or a recovery of funds for you.