Perhaps the most common type of complaint we hear from potential dental malpractice clients involves problems after having a wisdom tooth pulled.
Wisdom teeth are often more complicated to extract than other teeth. Common complications include nerve injury, broken jaws or sinuses, and damage to adjacent teeth. For these reasons, many experts recommend having wisdom teeth extracted by an oral surgeon rather than a general dentist.
Oral surgeons are specialists who attended both dental school and medical school and have advanced clinical and surgical training. Most of the cases we’ve reviewed or handled arising from wisdom tooth extraction complications were handled by general dentists.
A jury recently awarded a $2,750,000 verdict in a dental/medical malpractice lawsuit against an oral surgeon.
In that case, a general dentist referred a patient in his 30s to an oral surgeon to have a lower left wisdom tooth removed. During an initial office visit, the oral surgeon took a panoramic x-ray of the patient’s entire mouth. He was concerned about a dark spot, or radiolucency, in the patient’s lower jaw, near the wisdom tooth he wanted pulled.
The oral surgeon ordered a CT scan and recommended a biopsy to determine whether the concerning area was cancerous. The patient had the CT scan done a few months later, but the radiologist reported that it wasn’t optimal because the scan wasn’t done with intravenous contrast (IV). The radiologist recommended an MRI with IV contrast.
For some types CT and MRI scans, IV contrast is necessary for the radiologist to be able to see areas of concern. CT contrast contains iodine and MRI contrast contains gadolinium.
The oral surgeon felt that an MRI with contrast wasn’t necessary and instead decided to proceed with extracting the patient’s wisdom tooth.
About a week later, the patient returned to the oral surgeon’s office and gave his informed consent for an incision and biopsy procedure. The planned procedure would involve making an incision and obtaining a tissue sample of the suspicious area. The surgeon would then send the tissue sample to a pathologist for study under a microscope to determine if it was cancerous or benign (harmless).
According to the lawsuit and evidence at trial, after the patient was sedated, the oral surgeon decided to perform an excision and biopsy instead. Instead of taking a tissue sample, the surgeon opted to remove the entire mass. While removing what he thought was a cystic mass, the oral surgeon injured the patient’s carotid and lingual arteries, causing prolific bleeding or hemorrhaging in his mouth.
The oral surgeon’s office called 911 and an ambulance took the patient to a hospital for emergency surgery.
The patient pursued a dental/medical malpractice claim, alleging that the oral surgeon failed to obtain proper informed consent, violated the standard of care by not ordering an MRI with IV contrast, didn’t try less invasive means such as needle aspiration before removing the entire mass, and damaged blood vessels with a drill.
The oral surgeon argued that he didn’t breach the standard of care and refused to make any settlement offer pretrial. The Michigan jury took barely over an hour to return a verdict of $2.75 million.
If you’ve been seriously injured in Texas because of poor dental or oral surgery care, then contact a top-rated experienced Texas medical/dental malpractice attorney for free consultation about your potential case.