Alleged Inappropriate Treatment in Laser Gum Recontouring and Placement of Crowns and Veneers Results in $640,000 Arbitration Award

The plaintiff, a woman in her early forties, underwent a dental procedure performed at the office of the defendant dentist, which was intended to aesthetically correct a gummy smile with her upper anterior teeth and to replace a chipped composite filling on her upper front tooth. The defendant dentist told the plaintiff during a consultation that to achieve a cosmetic and functional result she should also restore her lower teeth with veneers.

During the procedure, the defendant dentist drilled twenty of the plaintiff’s teeth in order to place veneers and crowns and drilled two teeth for a three-unit fixed bridge. The defendant dentist also performed laser surgery to the plaintiff’s upper gums to heighten her gummy smile.

Following the procedure, the plaintiff filed a malpractice lawsuit against the defendant dentist claiming she had to receive subsequent care to replace the twenty-three tooth restorations. She also claimed that the subsequent care required crown lengthening periodontal surgery and eight root canals, and that she will require future replacement of her lower anterior veneers every ten years.

The parties stipulated to a binding arbitration when no court room was available on trial day.

During arbitration, the plaintiff claimed that:

  • • during the almost two and a half hours that she was under IV sedation, the defendant dentist could not reasonably prepare, or temporize, twenty-three units of crowns, veneers and a bridge.
  • • there was no need for full mouth veneers, crowns, and bridges.
  • • the proper way to treat her gummy smile was to have her smile line raised to a higher level through the use of periodontal crown lengthening surgery to remove bone and gum tissue.
  • the laser gum recontouring performed by the defendant dentist could not and did not change her bone position.
  • • after the surgery, her gums grew back to their previous and original biological width position, causing biological width violation and resulting in chronic, painful, inflamed, red and swollen gums.
  • • teeth bleaching and clear-aligner treatment should have been offered as an option instead of the invasive lower anterior veneers.

The defendant dentist argued that the treatment provided gave the plaintiff aesthetic perfection and that the inflamed gums were due to her inadequate oral hygiene.

According to published accounts, an arbitration award of over $640,000 was given to the plaintiff, including over $250,000 for the plaintiff’s husband’s loss of consortium claim.

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