Alleged inadequate dental work blamed for additional work, pain, altered bite – defense verdict

The patient/plaintiff in this case alleged that the defendant dentist failed to properly perform dental restorations. Expert witnesses for the patient/plaintiff claimed the composite fillings used by the dentist were poorly sealed and had poor contours. These were alleged to have caused decay, leaving the patient requiring endodontic therapy or extractions to treat. Additionally, the expert witnesses for the patient/plaintiff alleged that the patient had an occlusion that was unbalanced and uneven. They claimed that the patient’s biomechanical risk was high because of the presence of tooth decay, and the defendant dentist should have acted appropriately. 

The defense for the dentist denied any wrongdoing and asserted he had followed the standard of care in the patient’s tooth restoration, cleaning of decay, and filling of cavities. 

At the conclusion of the trial, a defense verdict was returned. 

The defense in this case was greatly assisted by the dentist’s thorough documentation of the informed consent process and dental treatment. Documentation can be burdensome, but it is key to protecting dentists from potential liability. 

Obtaining informed consent is an important step before any dental procedure. Dentists should document the informed consent discussion, including review of procedure options; note that the patient’s questions were answered, and the patient expressed understanding. Be sure that the consent form clearly outlines the nature of the treatment, treatment alternatives (including no treatment), and potential risks and benefits in language the patient can understand. Keep the signed form in the dental record and give a copy to the patient. Retain any images (X-rays, photographs, etc.) obtained for assessment before, during, or after the procedure.

For sample informed consent and other dental office forms, NSDP members can visit the Dental Office Forms page. 
With permission from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts; Lewis Laska, Editor, 901 Church St., Nashville, TN 37203-3411, 1-800-298-6288.