Dental malpractice is medical malpractice. For some unknown reason, a lot of people do not think of dentist as medical providers. but they are medical providers. Their focus is on providing good health by taking care of patients’ teeth and treating gum and jaw disorders.
However, the fact that dentist are medical providers doesn’t answer the question “are dentist mistakes medical malpractice?”. The true answer is that dentist mistakes may or may not be medical malpractice.
First, just because there was a bad result doesn’t mean that the dentist did something wrong. It is possible that the dentist did everything right, but for some reason the results were not what was expected and anticipated.
Second, even if the dentist made a mistake, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there was dental malpractice or medical malpractice. In our legal system, for a dentist to be liable for a patient’s injuries, a patient must prove four elements or facts.
1. The patient must show that a dentist has a duty to provide the same care as a reasonably prudent dentist would have provided in the same circumstances. While it is accepted that the dentist has a duty toward his/her patients, this element or fact is also proven by showing what a reasonably prudent dentist would have done in the same circumstance.
2. The patient must show that the dentist breached his/her duty to the patient by not doing what a reasonably prudent dentist would have done in a similar circumstance. This element or fact is proven by showing what the dentist actually did or didn’t do and comparing it to what should have been done.
3. The patient must show that the action or failure of action of the dentist caused the injury that the patient suffered. Notice that the injury could be cause by what the dentist did do, such as extract a tooth which caused an injury to the patient’s jaw, or didn’t do, such as not extracting a tooth which caused an infection which caused an injury to the patient’s jaw.
4. The patient must show that the patient did, in fact, suffer an injury. In legal terms, if the patient did not suffer an injury, there is not dental malpractice regardless of how many mistakes or how severe mistakes that were made by the dentist. No injury = no dental malpractice.
If a patient can prove the four elements or facts outlined above, then there may have been dental malpractice. Because, dental care is medical care, a dental malpractice case is handled the same way as a regular medical malpractice case. Expert witnesses are required to show what should have been done to the patient, what actually was done, how what was done caused an injury to the patient, and the actual injury to the patient.
The above information is general information only. If you have any questions whatsoever, talk with a lawyer licensed in your state.