Can I sue my dentist and if so, how do I go about doing so? 26 Answers as of August 08, 2012

I last visited the dentist March 2012, and I have not been able to chew on the right side of my mouth since, the pain is becoming unbearable. I initially went to this dentist in December 2011 for a filling that came out on the bottom right side of my mouth. The first time I went in they took x-rays of my whole mouth and scheduled me for another appointment. The next visit I was told "You have periodontal disease, you didn't get that last week" and I was like "Because you didn't tell me that last week" I was told that they sent in a request to my insurance for me to have deep gum and root cleaning, Upper Left, Lower Left, Upper Right and Lower Right Quadrants. A letter from my insurance was sent out to me 2/24/2012 stating "Based upon the information provided to our dental reviewer, it has been determined that the request for the above listed service(s) is denied: The reason for this determination is as follows: Your tooth must have noticeable bone loss or show on an x-ray that there is a hard substance built up on the root of the tooth. Our dentist looked at the information sent by your dentist. This service is not needed. We have told your dentist this also. Please talk to your dentist about other options to treat your teeth." This denial was for all four quadrants of my mouth. When I went to see my dentist the third time, they took more z-rays, upper and lower right side. They insisted that there was rot under my filling and that they would have to come out and be replaced with new fillings. I put my trust in this dentist that she knew what she was doing and that I would be okay and my teeth would be okay also. Well, as I said I have not been able to chew on that side of my mouth since March 2012 and the pain is getting worse, I have been terrified to visit another dentist since, I need to know if I can sue and what to do next.

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Havens & Lichtenberg PLLC
Havens & Lichtenberg PLLC | Michael Lichtenberg
You absolutely, unquestionably, have to see another dentist as soon as possible. First - and foremost - because your well-being depends on it. Living in such pain and letting your tooth rot is, simply, not reasonable. Second, because you would have to show to the court what your first dentist should have done; the best way to do it is to get proper care from a respectable professional. Third, because the longer you wait the better chances you give to the defendant dentist to say that, whatever the condition of your teeth you end up with by the time you got treatment, it has developed after you came to her (so, basically, she is not responsible - you are). Finally, any judge or jury deciding your case will have to weigh the faults: that pain that you have suffered, was it because the dentist did not treat you timely or because you did not go to another dentist as soon as it became clear that you were not receiving the right care from the defendant the tooth that you lost (and have to pay for an implant, or whatever, as a result), could it be saved if the defendant treated it right when you first came to see her - and could it be saved if you acted as a reasonable person and went to another dentist? Plainly speaking, the outcome of the case against this dentist will depend, to a large extent, on whether you act as a reasonable, responsible adult. Talk to your friends and co-workers: chances are, someone knows a really good dentist. Take care of your teeth, without any further delay. Then, consult an attorney who knows how to prosecute dental malpractice claims. But first, for Pete's sake, go and get a good dentist look at your tooth!
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 8/8/2012
Law Office of Charles M. Vacca Jr. | Charles Martin Vacca Jr.
These cases are very complex, and you most certainly need a lawyer to assist you in any type of malpractice suit. You will also next qualified expert witnesses regarding the malpractice in detail.
Answer Applies to: Rhode Island
Replied: 8/7/2012
NOLAN LAW LLC | Joshua J. Nolan
It is possible to prosecute claims for dental malpractice. However, it is not clear that you have sufficient facts to determine whether your original dentist committed malpractice. All malpractice claims require testimony from an expert in that field (i.e. - another dentist) to opine that the original care provider failed to meet the applicable standard of care. There appears to be a disagreement between your dentist and your insurance company regarding the condition of your teeth and the necessity of certain treatment. I strongly suggest that you seek an opinion from another dentist regarding the condition of your teeth and the treatment needed. Only then will you be able to evaluate your potential claim against your original dentist.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Replied: 8/7/2012
Victor Varga | Victor Varga
You need a dentist expert...that is the only person who can say whether there was dental malpractice or not.
Answer Applies to: Maryland
Replied: 8/7/2012
Dennis P. Mikko Attorney at Law | Dennis P. Mikko
You should consult with an attorney experienced in medical/dental malpractice. First you would have to determine, by expert review, if the dentist's actions fell below the acceptable standard of care.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/7/2012
    Law Offices of Mark L. Smith
    Law Offices of Mark L. Smith | Mark L. Smith
    You will still have to go to another dentist to receive an opinion that the first dentist deviated from the proper standard of care. It also appears you need a dentist to correct your present problems.
    Answer Applies to: Rhode Island
    Replied: 8/7/2012
    Law Office of Jared Altman
    Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
    You need to consult with a malpractice specialist and get your X-rays reviewed by an independent expert.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/7/2012
    Alvin Lundgren | Alvin Lundgren
    You will need to establish that your dentist departed from the normal standard of care. To do that you will need to see another dentist, get a proper diagnosis and get on the path to healing. If your first dentist was negligent you will be entitled to reimbursement of medical expenses and something for paid and suffering.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/7/2012
    Conway Law Pllc.
    Conway Law Pllc. | B. L. Conway
    Well, that is a very complex question. It will require an independent medical review to determine whether you have a case.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 8/6/2012
    Gebler & Weiss, P.C. | Jerrie S. Weiss
    In order to sue a dentist, you need to send a 90 day notice letter first. Then you can file a complaint in court. You must prove that something the dentist did was below the standard of care in the community and that it caused you injury and damages. It is not easy to prove this. You need the expert testimony of another dentist with the opinion that your dentist violated the standard of care in the community and that it caused you injury and damages. As I see it, the cost of going to trial on a case like this, where your injuries might not be serious, would be more than you might be awarded. I would first see another dentist and inquire as to whether he or she believes that what was done was below the standard of care.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/3/2012
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo | Mark Leonardo
    For medical malpractice you will need another dentist (an expert) to testify that that your current dentist did something that was below the standard of care. You need to search for a medical malpractice attorney and perhaps one that has experience with dentists (always better since he or she would have some familiarity with the science of the mouth/teeth). Attorneys handling this will do so on contingency and will five you a free consultation. But you are going to need to go to a new dentist to see what is going on. The delay can be considered unreasonable on your part and partial fault may be attributed to you for doing nothing for nearly 5 months except suffering in pain. Your expert can be a treating dentist. So either the attorney can recommend one for you or you can search for one in your area, preferably one that has litigation experience as an expert so he or she will know how to say that your current dentist was at fault using proper legal lingo and will not be afraid to get involved in a lawsuit. Most doctors and dentists want nothing to do with litigation. Others make it a regular portion of their practice.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/3/2012
    Mike Yeksavich | Mike Yeksavich
    You need an expert witness to make out a malpractice case. A bad result alone is not enough to make a malpractice case.
    Answer Applies to: Oklahoma
    Replied: 8/3/2012
    James M. Osak, P.C.
    James M. Osak, P.C. | James M. Osak
    YES you can sue . . . if you can PROVE your case. Contact a medical malpractice attorney for details.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/3/2012
    Law Offices of Ronald A. Steinberg & Associates | Ronald A. Steinberg, BA, MA, JD
    If you have periodontal disease, that was something that developed over a period of time. Unless you floss your gums, brush your teeth at least twice a day, and have regular dental exams, you caused the problem. Now, you cannot expect the dentist to fix it overnight. Gum disease allows bacteria and other bad stuff to cause damage to the teeth, and especially to the roots (where the nerves are) and so that is why it hurts. You need to get the problem fixed. Then at the same time, you need your dentist to address the position being taken by the insurance company. You may need to sue the company to get reimbursed for the cost of the dental treatment. However, if you wait to get the dental care, you will probably lose your teeth, and if the infection spreads through your body, you could cause significant heart problems and other life-threatening difficulties.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/3/2012
    R. D. Kelly Law Firm, P.L.L.C.
    R. D. Kelly Law Firm, P.L.L.C. | Robert Kelly
    Medical malpractice cases in the great State of Washington are governed by statutes. RCW 7.70. (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=7.70). The main question is usually whether the health care provider failed to follow the accepted standard of care in the field. RCW 7.70.030. There can also be causes of action for health care providers making promises they didn't fulfill, or acting without the informed consent of the patient. These cases are extremely difficult and require the testimony of an expert witness. Miller V. Jacoby, 102 Wn. App. 256 (2000). (You can read relevant cases at the MRSC website.) Doctors are trained to work cooperatively (unlike lawyers who are trained to be adversarial), so doctors are often reluctant to testify against each other. Doctors who are willing to testify as expert witness usually charge significant quantities of money to do so, and often must be flown in from out of State. Some law firms who are really good at medical malpractice cases in Washington State include the following: Chris Otorowski (http://www.medilaw.com/); Chemnick, Moen, Greenstreet (http://cmglaw.com/); and Fuller & Fuller (http://www.fullerlaw.com/). Only a small percentage of victims of medical malpractice make a claim, and of those that do, only about 20% ever get any money to compensate them. Nonetheless, sometimes justice requires assigning responsibility and accountability where it is due.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/3/2012
    Downriver Injury and Auto Law | Michael Heilmann
    In order to sue a dentist, one needs to file a medical malpractice case. These are very expensive to pursue because you need to hire an expert in the field to review the records and sign an affidavit of merit before you can sue. You must retain an attorney with expertise in the field. Good Luck. It would not hurt to discuss your bill with your old dentist.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/3/2012
    Law Office of Pho Ethan Tran PLLC
    Law Office of Pho Ethan Tran PLLC | Pho Ethan Tran
    Unless your dentist has harmed you in some way, you do not have grounds to sue him. If you do not trust your dentist, it may be a good idea to seek a second opinion.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 8/3/2012
    Lapin Law Offices
    Lapin Law Offices | Jeffrey Lapin
    Just because you cannot chew on the right side does not necessarily mean that the dentist did anything wrong. There are known complications for all dental procedures. Generally, to establish dental malpractice you must prove: (1) The generally recognized standard of care for dentist performing the dental work that was done; (2) that the dentist deviated from this recognized standard of care doctor; and (3) that the deviation was the proximate cause of your pain. More simply, you have to prove that the dentist did, or did not do, something that other dentists would have differently under the same circumstances. In most cases, a dentist must establish (usually through his or her testimony) the items listed. While the insurance letter you quoted differs from what your dentist said, this is not sufficient to prove that the dentist committed malpractice. I do not have enough information to offer an opinion as to whether you have a case against the dentist. Assuming you do not have an attorney, who would do these items for you, you can sue your dentist by filing a complaint against him or her. You would then have a copy of the complaint and a summons served upon the dentist. After that there are a number of things that may or can occur before you, depending on the evidence, end up at trial. You should be aware there is a statute of limitations on dental malpractice claims. If you do have a case settled or a lawsuit on file before the statute of limitations expires, you will lose, assuming the dentist does not waive this defense, your chance to get any money from the dentist. The statute of limitations for dental malpractice is usually two years from the date of the negligent act by the dentist. Although you list some dates, I do not have enough information to answer when the two year statute of limitations would expire. I would suggest consulting with an attorney who handles dental malpractice cases. He or she can better advise you about your rights and the statute of limitations for your possible claim.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 8/3/2012
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C.
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C. | Andrew Velonis
    What you need to do next is to get to another dentist, terrified or not, insurance or no. Each day you wait, it's only going to get worse. As for malpractice, in order to determine whether you have a cause of action, you would first have to get all of your dental records, have them reviewed by another dentist, and have the reviewing dentist determine if the first dentist failed to conform to accepted practice.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/3/2012
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC | John F Brennan
    You need to see an attorney, and will have to be assisted in finding a dentist who is willing to testify that your present dentist was negligent. That might not be easy.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/3/2012
    Brankey & Smith, P.C. | Rodney L. Smith
    You need to file an appeal of the denial with your insurance company. There should be an appeal process listed on the denial letter.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 8/3/2012
    Timiney Law Firm
    Timiney Law Firm | Leigh Anne Timiney
    In order to sue a dentist for medical malpractice, you are going to have to see another dentist and find out what is going on in your mouth that is causing you so much pain. Medical malpractice cases are very difficult to pursue in Arizona and can be very costly. In a medical malpractice case, the burden is on the patient to show that the physician providing you medical care fell below the "standard of care". Standard of care is defined as "The care and treatment of patients that demonstrates a level of skill, judgment, knowledge, and documentation ordinarily exercised by a physician with similar background, training, and experience in a similar practice setting". You also have to show that a physician's failure to provide you treatment that meets the standard of care was the direct result of any damage you suffered. So until you find out what is causing your pain, you would not be able to pursue any type of legal claim. I would first make an appointment with a second dentist and find out what is the root if your problem in your mouth. If the second dentist can related your pain to something the first dentist did or failed to do, I would consult with an attorney who specialized in medical malpractice. Good luck to you.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 8/3/2012
    Frisby Law Firm | Matthew Frisby
    "Malpractice" is when a doctor is careless or otherwise provides medical care that is not up to the generally accepted standards (better known as the standard of care). You can sue your dentist but you will not be successful unless he/she has committed malpractice. If you have reason to believe that your dentist committed malpractice, you should collect ALL (including copies of all x-rays) of your medical records surrounding the treatment and discuss the matter with a medical malpractice attorney. You should be aware all claims have statutes of limitations that apply to them. This means that you must take action on all claims within the required time period(s) or your claims will be barred forever. Contact our office or another competent attorney immediately to discuss the particular facts of any claim you might have to learn what time periods apply to your particular situation. The information here has been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between the sender and receiver. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.
    Answer Applies to: Oklahoma
    Replied: 8/3/2012
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