Alleged Improper Removal of Impacted Tooth Blamed for Nerve Damage

The plaintiff, a forty-five-year-old woman, underwent extraction of her lower left wisdom tooth. The tooth, which was impacted and painful, was removed by the defendant Doctor of Dental Medicine. During the procedure, the tooth broke, and fragments were left in the plaintiff’s jaw. The fragments were discovered eighteen days later. Two days after the discovery, the second defendant, a Doctor of Dental Surgery, removed the fragments.

The plaintiff filed a malpractice lawsuit against the two dentists, alleging that the broken fragments caused her pain, and the removal of them caused pain and numbness. The plaintiff claimed the first defendant did not suggest a non-surgical treatment for her impacted tooth, and the extraction of the tooth, and the pain from it could have been avoided by a non-surgical means. The plaintiff maintained that the defendant did not obtain an x-ray following the tooth extraction, and if he had, he would have seen the fragments left in her jaw that in her opinion injured her inferior alveolar nerve.

The plaintiff claimed the defendant who removed the fragments damaged the inferior alveolar nerve while removing them, and instead of being referred to him, she should have been referred to a neurologist.

The plaintiff also alleged that both defendants failed to obtain informed consent.

The defendant who removed the original impacted tooth asserted there was no reason for a follow-up x-ray, and that alternative treatment would have only alleviated the plaintiff’s pain for a period of time. The defendant maintained that extraction was the only sure treatment.

The defendant who removed the fragments asserted that a neurological referral was not necessary; the fragments had to be extracted, and the extraction was performed correctly.

Both defendants contended they obtained the plaintiff’s informed consent before each performed their respective procedures.

The jury returned a defense verdict after deliberating twenty-eight hours at the conclusion of a nine-day trial.

With permission from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts; Lewis Laska, Editor, 901 Church St., Nashville, TN 37203-3411, 1-800-298-6288.