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Dental Malpractice Liability for Nerve Injuries

Dental malpractice can result in a wide variety of injuries and high verdicts. According to one study of data from the National Practitioner Database, dental malpractice payments are going up. In 2004, the number of malpractice payments against dentists represented 10.3% of all payments made against health professionals. In 2014, it represented 13.4%. Among the more serious injuries resulting from dental malpractice is nerve injury.

Many forms of dental treatment can cause nerve injury, including local anesthetic injections, root canal procedures, dental implants, bone grafting, and dentoalveolar surgery. The most frequently injured nerves are the inferior alveolar nerve (“IAN”) and the lingual nerve (“LN”). IAN injuries are typically caused during tooth extraction, placement of dental implants, or root canal and can result in numbness, impaired speech, and pain in the face, chin, lips, and gums.

LN injuries generally are caused during extractions of wisdom teeth on the lower jaw and can result in numbness, pain, and burning sensation in the tongue, difficulty articulating speech, and altered taste. While injuries are often temporary, permanent damage is possible. Pain killers, laser treatments, and surgical procedures such as external or internal neurolysis may offer relief of pain, but functional issues are often permanent.

Another type of nerve injury involves the trigeminal nerve. It most frequently occurs during root canal. Patients can experience significant and persistent pain in the eyes, forehead, jaws, lips, nose, and/or scalp resulting in “trigeminal neuralgia” – chronic, often excruciating pain in the distribution of the trigeminal nerve. Various types of medication and surgery are used to treat patients.

As with any malpractice case, the plaintiff in a dental malpractice case must establish the appropriate standard of care was breached and that the breach caused injury to the plaintiff resulting in harm. Expert testimony is essential to prove or defend against a claim.

Where a patient allegedly suffered nerve damage during a dental procedure, expert witnesses may include Endodontists or Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Endodontists treat dental pain and problems relating to the interior of each tooth or pulp. They perform specialized treatments like root canal surgery, as well as dental implants. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (OMFS) operate on the face, mouth, and jaw in order to treat injuries, congenital malformations, and diseases of the skull, face, jaw (maxilla and mandible), mouth, and dentition. They perform various procedures including wisdom teeth extractions, dental implants, and complex surgeries which may overlap with Plastic Surgeons and Otolaryngologists. Both types of experts can offer testimony regarding the appropriate standard of care, causation, and the severity of the harm done.

If you are involved in a dental malpractice claim, contact Elite Medical Experts. We can assist you in securing top-tier Board Certified expert witnesses in Endodontics and Oral and Maxillofacial surgery.

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