A trip to the dentist is usually routine and uneventful, but what if something goes wrong, and you walk away with nerve damage? Whether it’s a simple filling or a more complex root canal, dental nerve damage can be a devastating outcome, leaving you with pain, numbness, and loss of sensation. You may be wondering if you can sue a dentist for nerve damage, and what your legal options are for seeking compensation. The good news is that under certain circumstances, you may be able to sue for negligence under dental malpractice, and recover damages for your injury. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the causes of dental nerve damage, the basis for a dental malpractice claim, and what you need to know if you’re considering filing a lawsuit in Florida.
When you go in for a dental procedure, the last thing you expect is to walk out with a severe injury caused by your dentist nicking one of your facial nerves. To understand the extent of your injury, and whether you have a potential claim for dental malpractice, it’s good to figure out, (a) which nerve branch was injured, and (b) what the symptoms are, so you can monitor and track them. After all, you need to prove that long-term or permanent damage was done, so making note of when the symptoms started, and where they’re felt is crucial to your case.
In dental malpractice cases, the trigeminal nerve is one of 12 pairs of cranial nerves that can be impacted. It plays a crucial role in transmitting sensory and motor signals to and from the face, mouth, eyes, and nose. It has three (3) main branches – the ophthalmic, maxillary, and mandibular nerves – each responsible for different regions of the face and head. The mandibular branch, in particular, gives rise to two (2) important nerves – the inferior alveolar nerve (IAN), which supplies sensation to the lower teeth, gums, chin, lips, and is essential to lower jaw movement, and the lingual nerve (LN), which provides sensation to the tongue and floor of the mouth, and is responsible for transmitting taste signals back and forth from the tongue to the brain. If a dentist causes nerve damage to either of these, it can cause some serious pain, discomfort, and loss of quality of life.
Unfortunately, dental nerve damage to the inferior alveolar nerve is quite common, as it can be injured during a wide variety of dental procedures. A dental implant can be placed too close and cause pressure on the nerve, causing pain, while aesthetic injections can damage the nerve, and overfilled root canals can crowd the nerve space. During extractions, there is risk associated with severing the nerve completely. For the lingual nerve, on the other hand, aesthetic injections, dental implants, lower wisdom teeth extraction, heat damage from laser/cauterization, and dental drill/burr slippage are instances that can cause damage.
If you believe you have nerve damage, and are wondering if you can sue, here are the symptoms to look out for.
The severity and duration of the symptoms depend on the extent and location of the nerve damage. Some symptoms may improve over time as the nerve heals, while others may persist or worsen. Unfortunately, nerve damage to either of these branches can cause a patient to struggle with daily activities, and may find that every aspect of their life is negatively impacted as a result.
You’ve been monitoring your symptoms, have received a consultation and diagnosis of nerve damage, and are wondering when can you sue a dentist for nerve damage? The answer depends on whether your dentist breached the standard of care that a reasonable dentist would have followed in the same situation. Not every case of nerve damage is a result of negligence, and not every instance of nerve damage results in long-term or permanent impact (nerves can heal over time). However, if your dentist made a mistake that caused your injury, such as severing the nerve, using excessive force, or failing to diagnose and treat the damage promptly, you may have a valid claim for compensation.
To sue your dentist for nerve damage, you need to prove that they breached the standard of care in treating you, and that their actions were negligent or reckless, and that the breach caused the injury and subsequent damages to you. You can think of standard of care as the minimum level of care that you should receive during your dental procedure. A breach could include:
An example of the above is if you call in with symptoms of nerve damage, and no consultation or treatment is offered, or you are not referred to an oral surgeon for a follow-up on post-operative, nerve-related complications, then this could be seen as standard of care breach.
If you have suffered dentist nerve damage from negligence, you may be entitled to file a dental malpractice lawsuit against the dentist or dental clinic responsible. However, you should be aware of the time limits that apply to your claim. In Florida, patients have two (2) years from the date of the perceived injury to file a dental malpractice claim, but in some cases, these can be extended up to four (4) years from the date of discovery. If you miss this deadline, you may lose your right to seek compensation for your damages.
To bring about a successful dental malpractice lawsuit, you must have the testimony of a qualified dental expert witness, who can attest to whether your dentist met or failed the expected standard of care levels. Therefore, it’s important to consult with an experienced dental malpractice attorney as soon as possible, as they can help you gather evidence, find expert witnesses, and attend court on your behalf.
If you win your dental malpractice lawsuit, you can receive any of the following types of damages:
It’s important to note that the damages that can be recovered may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
Attempting to handle a dental malpractice case on your own can be an overwhelming task. If you’re planning to sue for dentist-caused nerve damage, you need to build a strong case against the healthcare professional or practice, and a thorough investigation is necessary. It’s important to never accept a swift settlement without consulting an experienced attorney first. If you’re seeking legal assistance for your malpractice case, our lawyers here at Personal Injury of Florida are here to help. Our team is ready to speak with you today, at no cost to you; just give us a call at 561-507-5700 for a free consultation, 24-hours a day/7 days a week.