Tongue Injury During Crown Replacement Causes Nerve Damage

The plaintiff presented to the defendant dentist to have a tooth prepared to accept a crown. The defendant was using a handheld dental drill to taper the edges of the plaintiff’s tooth when the drill struck the side of the plaintiff’s tongue, causing a 1.5 cm laceration.

The plaintiff later noticed the damage while looking in her car’s rearview mirror and returned to the defendant, who referred the plaintiff to an oral surgeon. She was ultimately discharged with a tea bag placed on the laceration.

According to a published account, the plaintiff’s treating physician and speech therapist testified that the laceration “likely” caused a partial injury to her 12th cranial nerve. The treating physician further testified that this partial nerve damage in turn caused the plaintiff’s inability to articulate clearly, and that the damage was permanent. 

At the conclusion of a five-day trial, the jury sided with the plaintiff and awarded her $2.5 million in damages. The award consisted of $2 million for future non-economic damages and $500,000 for past non-economic damages. The plaintiff did not seek compensation for lost wages nor medical bills.

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