I had a tooth that was hurting me and was sensitive to hot and cold. It hurt even just when I touched it. I have a bit of a dental anxiety so don’t have a regular dentist at the moment. I went to one who said he’d see non-patients in cases of emergencies that I found in an advertisement. When I saw him, he said the problem was that my wisdom teeth all needed to be extracted, though one he thought he could do a filling on and it would help. I did tell him that the tooth that hurt me felt further up and on a chart showed him tooth #19. He still felt the problem was my wisdom teeth. I decided to start with the filling he said could help. It didn’t. Then, I had the wisdom teeth extracted by an oral surgeon. At first I thought he had actually solved the problem but I think it was just painkillers. Eventually, my jaw swelled up so I went back in for a 3rd time. This time, he prescribed me antibiotics, which helped until they wore off. I finally gave up on him and went to the ER. They told me I had an infected tooth and showed me the abscess. Guess what? It was tooth #19. I went BACK to the dentist and he referred me to an endodontist. When I called them, they told me it would be at least three weeks before they could fit me in. I could not bear to wait three weeks and I could tell the infection was spreading. It had made its way up to my eye. I ended up just going back to the oral surgeon and had him take it out. I couldn’t take any more. I will admit to being angry. I have wasted so much time and money and if he would have just listened to me about what tooth it was from the beginning, I might still have a tooth. Is there any legal recourse for this?
This is a horrific story and you definitely have some recourse here. This dentist has crossed the line into gross negligence and malpractice. Here is what I think your dentist should cover at a minimum:
- Your extra visits
- Your visits to the oral surgeon, Endodontist, and ER
- The cost of your extractions
- The cost of replacing this tooth, which could have been saved, with a dental implant.
If he does not agree to this, you have a great malpractice case. Here is a list of some of his mistakes:
It Was Clear a Root Canal Treatment Was Needed
Sensitivity or pain to a tooth with cold means the pulp of the tooth is inflamed. This is dentistry 101. If you include the pain to the touch you were having then the need for a root canal treatment is even higher. I have absolutely no idea why he was talking about your wisdom teeth when these symptoms were present in your tooth.
Antibiotics are NOT the Solution for a Tooth Infection
Next, he prescribes you an antibiotic when his solution didn’t work. First, if he didn’t recognize the infection, he certainly should have now. Plus, antibiotics do not cure a tooth infection because the medicine cannot get inside the tooth. The only thing an antibiotic can do is hold an infection at bay. Maybe he does not like doing a root canal treatment. That’s fine, he could send you to an endodontist, which is sort of did eventually. Then, there was the swelling and he still did nothing. This indicated a spreading infection, which is considered a dental emergency, leaving it put you in danger. People still die from tooth infections.
He Ignored Your Pain and the Danger You Were In
Even after you got a proper diagnosis (from the ER and not from him), he showed a depraved indifference to your situation and suffering. He could have easily gotten you out of pain by drilling an opening in your tooth. With the swelling in your jaw, the pulp of the tooth would have been dead so you wouldn’t feel the drilling. But, no, he left you in pain. Then, he sent you to an endodontist who could not see you for weeks. Honestly, if the infection had spread my more, like to your brain, you would have died.
Why Charge Him for a Dental Implant?
While all the other charges I mentioned he should cover are pretty self-explanatory, you may be wondering what is the justification for charging him for the dental implant. It’s actually pretty simple. If he had done his job properly, it is very likely your tooth could have been saved with a root canal treatment. Now, you’ve lost an important molar. If it isn’t replaced, then the other teeth will drift or tip into the open space. This will lead to your bite being thrown off and TMJ disorder. A dental implant is the only tooth replacement that prevents bone loss.
A Help for Your Dental Anxiety
I am certain this experience has not helped with the dental anxiety you experience. When you see another dentist (and please let it be a different one from the one you just went to) make sure it is a sedation dentist. They can give you an anxiety-free/pain-free dental procedure.
This blog is brought to you by Hoffman Estates Dentist Dr. William Becker.