Dread. Anxiety. Fear. Phobia. These are words that many people use to describe their feelings about visiting their dentist. It’s true that dental visits aren’t much fun, particularly if anything beyond a routine cleaning is necessary.
The anatomy of the mouth is complex, with lots of nerves and blood vessels passing near the teeth. When dental work involves drilling, pulling teeth, or even injections, there’s a risk that vital structures can be traumatized or permanently damaged.
Sometimes the nature of a dental procedure makes trauma to nearby structures unavoidable. A root canal and cap placement, for example, can cause swelling and pain from stretched tooth ligaments, the gums, and other areas. The pain can be hard to bear, but most often is resolved over time.
Nerve injuries are another common problem facing dental patients. After the anesthesia wears off, some people continue to experience numbness of their tongue, lips, or cheeks. Other people experience a shooting or electric-type pain. They’re all terrible feelings and frightening.
Some nerve injuries are temporary, described as neurapraxia, caused by trauma or bruising of the nerve. From dental malpractice cases that I’ve investigated and handled, I’ve learned from dental experts that this type of nerve injury will normally heal on its own, but it may take six months or even a year to do so.
For temporary nerve injuries—even those lasting 6-12 months—most dental experts will agree that there’s not a case to pursue. Beyond that timeframe, though, the nerve injuries are likely permanent, meaning there’s the potential for a dental malpractice case.
Another issue that comes up with dental patients is infections. Because of the complex anatomy of the head, dental infections can be dangerous if not promptly and correctly treated. The standard of care requires dentists to take patient complaints of pain seriously, including investigating the possibility of an infection. When an infection is verified, it’s often necessary for the dentist to take a sample and send it to a lab for culture and sensitivity testing, to make sure that the antibiotics ordered are appropriate to kill the offending bacteria.
In my experience, dentists are sometimes slow to recognize and treat infections. The delay can allow the infections to flourish and spread, sometimes even getting into the bone and causing major problems. An experienced Texas dental malpractice attorney can help you investigate this type of negligence, as well.
We are here to help
Click here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form or call us at 281-580-8800, for a free initial consultation.
Robert Painter is an award-winning medical and dental malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas.