Failure to Prescribe Antibiotics Following Tooth Extraction – Abscess Requires Surgery

Defense Verdict

The patient/plaintiff, age sixty-nine, went to the defendant’s dental office in January 2009 due to pain in tooth No. 30. The defendant general dentist offered the patient two options, a root canal or tooth extraction. The patient chose extraction. Immediately after the extraction the defendant gave the patient instructions to call if she developed any problems, as well as a prescription for Motrin for pain. No antibiotics were prescribed because he saw no signs of infection and the patient was not immune-compromised.

The patient’s condition worsened over the next forty-eight hours with significant swelling and pain on the right side of her face, but she did not call the defendant dentist. Two days after the extraction, the patient went to the hospital emergency room where she was diagnosed with a severe and life-threatening abscess in the submandibular and submental space. An oral-maxillofacial surgeon performed emergency surgery to drain the abscess which was compromising her airway. The procedure was done extra-orally, leaving temporary scarring along her right jaw line.

The patient claimed that an antibiotic should have been prescribed by the defendant dentist after the extraction because a pre-extraction x-ray showed a radiolucency and the patient had pain, both of which were consistent with the presence of an infection.

The defendant dentist claimed that there were no signs of a pre-extraction infection, that the x-ray did not show any radiolucency and that the patient’s pain was due to nerve inflammation which does not require antibiotics. The defendant dentist also alleged negligence by the patient for failing to call him regarding her deteriorating condition. The defendant dentist additionally claimed that the patient’s condition was not serious when she arrived at the emergency room.

According to reports, a defense verdict was returned.

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