What Is Dental Malpractice? (2024)

Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 5 mins

Going to the dentist can be scary for many people. But what do you do when you suspect your dentist has failed to treat you appropriately? When a dentist causes harm by failing to meet their treatment obligations, it can be grounds for a dental malpractice claim.

In this article, we’ll uncover what constitutes dental malpractice and explain when a poor experience at the dentist can warrant a call to a lawyer.

How To Prove Dental Negligence Claims

Dental malpractice is a type of personal injury claim. It can occur from an intentional act by the dentist, but more often is a case of dental negligence. To prove dental negligence, you need to prove the following four elements:

  • Duty of care. The dentist had a duty to provide reasonable care to you as their patient. This is often established by proving a dentist-patient relationship existed and some treatment had begun.
  • Breach of duty. The dentist failed to treat you according to the standard of care expected in the profession.
  • Causation. The dentist’s breach of duty was the direct cause of your harm or injury.
  • Damages. You suffered actual harm or losses as a result of the dentist’s breach of duty.

In order to prove those elements, you will need evidence. The types of evidence commonly relied upon for dental malpractice cases include dental records of treatment provided, X-rays, and test results. Witness testimony from dental assistants, hygienists, and other staff members may be helpful. Expert witnesses may also be called, such as a dentist who gave you a second opinion or an expert hired by your lawyer to review your treatment.

Lawyers who specialize in dental malpractice cases know how to investigate care to determine whether malpractice occurred. Fill out the form on this page for a free case consultation.

Do I Qualify for

Medical Malpractice Injury Compensation?
Free Case Review

Dental Malpractice Examples

A review by Crystal Baxter, DMD, MDS, highlights the types of dental treatment that led most often to dental malpractice claims. These are the most common types:

  • Complications due to tooth extractions. Failing to diagnose an infection after a tooth extraction, severing a nerve, and even jaw fractures can occur in negligent extractions. In some cases, the wrong tooth was extracted from the patient.
  • Endodontic (including root canal) treatment issues. Undiagnosed infections are also an area of concern for this treatment, as are accidental perforations of the sinus cavity. Negligent actions like leaving broken instrument pieces in the tooth canal have also been a source of malpractice claims.
  • Dental implant complications. Implants installed incorrectly or placed on a nerve are common injuries. This type of treatment also raises the possibility of undiagnosed infections or jaw fractures.
  • Orthodontic treatment complications. Failing to take x-rays sometimes lead to root damage and failure of orthodontic treatment.

Another issue can arise when your dentist stops treatment inappropriately, which can be grounds for a patient abandonment claim. There are unfortunately many problems that can lead to dental malpractice. If you think your dentist has failed to identify and treat an issue, or administered the wrong treatment, then it’s important to address the problem quickly. Fill out the form on this page to speak with a dental malpractice lawyer in your area.

How To Sue a Dentist for Malpractice

If you believe that you have suffered dental malpractice, filing a lawsuit may be the best way to resolve your claim. For smaller disputes, filing a small claims lawsuit can be enough to resolve the issue.

In cases where you have suffered a serious injury or have incurred significant expenses, consider hiring a personal injury lawyer to help you navigate the legal system. Working with a lawyer who specializes in dental malpractice can ensure you take the correct steps to maximize your payout. A lawyer can also negotiate on your behalf and may be able to help you settle your claim without filing a lawsuit.

How to win a dental malpractice lawsuit

Not all claims can be settled without filing a lawsuit. Your lawyer is best placed to help you gather necessary evidence, organize witness testimony, and file your lawsuit with the right court. Legal knowledge is critical to winning a dental malpractice lawsuit.

It is also important not to wait too long to initiate your claim. Each state has a deadline for filing dental malpractice lawsuits, called the statute of limitations. This deadline can vary from one year to six years, but it is vital that you initiate your lawsuit before the deadline passes.

Fill out the form on this page to get started today.

Average Payout for Dental Malpractice

According to data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, the average payment from a dental malpractice claim is $81,000. While that reflects the average, dental malpractice claims can reach into the millions for severe harm.

Dental malpractice falls is a type of medical malpractice claim, and data related to these claims is often combined. Medical malpractice payouts can vary by state, sometimes with significant differences in outcome.

Types Of Dental Malpractice Compensation

As with other types of personal injury lawsuits, your payout will be influenced by the type of harm you suffered and the costs you incurred as a result. You may be able to recover costs for:

  • Medical treatment to address the harm you suffered
  • Dentist fees if you needed to seek alternative care to complete or correct treatment
  • Lost wages if your injury caused you to miss work
  • Pain and suffering or other non-economic damages

Frequently Asked Questions

  • It can be difficult to win a dental malpractice lawsuit without expert legal support. A dental malpractice lawyer will understand how to prove the elements of dental malpractice, and the standard of care expected of dentists. They are also well placed to help you gather evidence and bring in expert witnesses to bolster your case.

  • According to malpractice insurer MedPro, 92% of dental malpractice claims are treatment related. The most common types of treatment to lead to a malpractice claim are restorations, such as fillings, or root canal treatment.

More About Medical Malpractice Injury

Stay up to date

Get updates on all of our legal news on lawsuits, research and legal updates.