Just as doctors and chiropractors and other healthcare professionals need to be careful not to create situations that make them vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits, so do dentists.
There are numerous examples of dentists who performed what they thought were ordinary procedures that led to expensive lawsuits in which the patient won.
You can protect your practice with these malpractice lawsuit tips for dentists.
Common Disputes That Lead To Malpractice Claims Against Dentists
1. Nerve Damage
A few years ago a patient won a case against a dentist who is said to have caused nerve damage when extracting the third molar.
The claim was that the dentist used excessive pressure when performing the procedure and this lead to nerve damage.
A malpractice award of several million dollars was awarded in a jury verdict and later settled for an undisclosed amount out of court.
2. Pour Professional Advice
Some patients file claims against dentists based on the fact that they believe they were given poor advice from them. They then claim that this led to irreversible problems later on.
They also sometimes say that the dentist failed to refer them to a specialist even though it was clear they needed one.
3. Needed Information Withheld
A patient will sometimes bring a charge against a dentist claiming that they didn’t fully inform them of what was going on in their mouth. This may be because they feel that they weren’t fully apprised of all the treatment options that were available or the risks. This made the patient vulnerable and led to a poor decision that they later regretted.
If a dental issue is either misdiagnosed or if a dentist fails to diagnose the condition at all, then a patient may bring a claim against them.
Even in a case where a patient believes the dentist diagnosed it late which then led to further complications, a claim may be brought.
Protecting Your Dental Practice With These Malpractice Prevention Tips
Make Certain Your Patient Knows What You’re Going To Do And The Risks Involved
It’s very important that you establish good communication with your patients. Never assume that they can understand the specifics of a procedure or the inherent risks that go with it.
Make sure to speak with them in layman’s terms and tell them that they should ask you any questions that they have. Make sure that you patiently listen to their questions and answer them so that the patient is comfortable with the process.
It may be necessary to get them to sign a consent form so that you can show that you covered the risks and the patient agreed they understood.
Only Diagnose And Treat Conditions You Are Competent With
Anytime a patient comes to your office with a condition that is outside your expertise refer them to someone more suitable for the condition they have. Never put yourself in a position of trying to treat conditions that are outside your specific comfort zone.
Often if you perform a procedure that is beyond your competency and it leads to a problem, the patient and their attorney can say that you should have referred them to a specialist.
Some practices, like Farnham Dentistry www.farnhamdentistry.com, have multiple dentists with different specialties, so that they can refer specialty cases within the same practice, instead of a completely different dental office.
Keep Detailed And Precise Records
One of the best things you can do to protect yourself is to keep thorough records. Often times even when a dentist may be in the right their failure to have an accounting of the situation or procedure can lead to situations that make them vulnerable to a malpractice suit.
If, as an example, the tip of a file breaks in the canal it is not a violation of reasonable care and incidents like this should be accounted for in the dentist’s records of the procedure. If the patient learns of this incident later and is shocked or feels that it has created a problem, it can instigate a malpractice suit.
Never Fully Remove Any Information From A Patient’s Chart
It is common for some dentists to erase or otherwise remove some information that they feel was a simple mistake. The problem is that if it is found that some information has been removed and there’s no proof of what that information was then the patient can claim a problem and it can appear suspicious against the dentist.
Instead of erasing the information, simply cross out the information and then put a notation that it was a mistake or considered unneeded.
Doing it this way means that the information is still there and it can be easily shown and proven it was simply an error.