What constitutes dental malpractice?


Quick Answer

The four essential elements involved in demonstrating dental malpractice are duty, breach, causation and damages, according to LegalMatch. A patient who suffers harm as a result of the incompetence, malice or negligence of a dentist may have a claim for dental malpractice.

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Full Answer

Duty is established when a dentist accepts a patient and agrees to provide treatment, explains LegalMatch. Breach means that a dentist failed in her duty to provide a reasonable level of care as measured against other dentists of average skill. Causation is proved by demonstrating that a dentist's breach of duty directly caused harm to a patient. Even when a dentist is clearly negligent, if no actual harm is done, it is not considered malpractice.

A wide range of incidents arising from poor dental care may constitute dental malpractice, says LegalMatch. The improper use of equipment or anesthesia is an example of malpractice as is the failure to diagnose a condition or disorder. Causing nerve damage to the face, jaw or mouth may be an instance of malpractice. Performing unnecessary surgery or exceeding a patient's consent are examples of malpractice.

Proving that a dentist failed to provide a reasonable standard of care is difficult, notes LegalMatch. Establishing a direct link between a dentist's procedures and a patient's injuries is also challenging. Dental malpractice suits are governed by a statute of limitations that varies from state to state.

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