Dentist’s alleged failure to disclose root tip left in patient’s mandible leads to jaw pain, infection, and abscess
The patient/plaintiff in this case, a woman in her 60s, was treated by the defendant general dentist, at which time all of her teeth were extracted, and lower and upper dentures were made. Six years later, the patient was reportedly having difficulty with her dentures due to a poor fit and she made another appointment with the dentist. The dentist took Panorex photographs of the patient’s mouth and jaw. Then, five months later, the patient received new upper and lower dentures provided by the dentist.
The patient later claimed that the dentist never advised her that there was a tooth remnant, also known as a root tip, left in her distal mandible on the left side during the dentist’s treatment of the patient.
Beginning approximately a year after the patient received her new dentures from the dentist, the patient began to experience soreness in her jaw on the left side, which became progressively aggravated as the weeks and months passed. The patient experienced hardening of the left jaw, pain, discomfort, and unsightly swelling from her neck with an infection and abscess. The patient went to an urgent care clinic for assessment of her pain, and later underwent a CT scan. The patient was then diagnosed with a chronic odontogenic infection and underwent surgery to remove the root tip and abscess.
Six months after her surgery, the patient/plaintiff filed a dental malpractice lawsuit against the defendant general dentist, alleging that the dentist’s negligence caused her to suffer long lasting residual pain and eventually led to permanent disfigurement of her complexion and jaw. The defendant dentist denied all allegations of negligence, arguing that the patient had been advised that the root tip was embedded and should be removed; however, the dentist claimed that the patient declined intervention.
Nearly four years after the lawsuit was filed, the case was tried before a jury. At the conclusion of a four-day trial, after one day of deliberation, the jury found in favor of the defendant dentist in this matter. While the jury determined that the defendant dentist likely failed to meet the standard of care in treating the patient, the jury concluded that the dentist’s negligence was not the direct cause of any harm to the patient.
Case study reproduced with permission from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts; Lewis Laska, Editor, 901 Church St., Nashville, TN 37203-3411, 1-800-298-6288.
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