According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, dentists perform more than 500 million procedures each year in this country. Even with the best of intentions, sometimes dentists commit malpractice. Here are five of the most common examples of dental malpractice:

1. Tooth extractions. There are a few ways that complications can develop from a tooth extraction.

  • A perforation of the sinuses during the extraction is a serious complication that requires care.
  • Infections are also a common problem with tooth extractions.
  • If nerve damage occurs, it can become permanent.
  • Too often, a dentist doesn’t refer the patient to the appropriate care resulting in additional and unnecessary medical problems and patient discomfort.

2. Failing to notice oral cancer. One of the most important jobs that a general dentist does is monitor patients for oral cancer. Cancer patients have the best outcome when they’re able to treat their cancer early.

  • It often first appears as pain or discomfort in the mouth or face.
  • A dentist should be able to recognize the warning signs of oral cancer and refer a patient for appropriate tests and care.
  • He or she should also be aware of lifestyle choices such as smoking that can contribute to the risk of getting oral cancer. Even genetics can play a role.
  • The dentist should take all of this into account and perform a cancer screening of their patients at regular intervals.

3. Adverse drug reactions. Dentists sometimes administer powerful medicines to patients. If the dentist doesn’t take proper care, these drugs can cause dangerous interactions for their patients. Respiratory depression is a dangerous effect of a drug reaction, and it can be fatal. A patient may have a dangerous drug interaction, or they might have an allergic reaction. Sadly, this is often avoidable.

  • A dentist should take care to get a thorough medical history before they administer drugs.
  • They shouldn’t just take the information and put it in the client’s file.
  • Instead, they should understand the information before they make decisions about a client’s care. Anything less may amount to dental malpractice.

4. Crowns and other restorative procedures. There are a lot of ways that a dentist can fail to meet the standard of care when they do a crown procedure. One common problem is overcontour. This occurs when the dentist restores the crown to be larger than its natural size. This can trap bacteria in harmful ways that lead to gum disease.

  • Failing to restore the tooth to its proper size can also cause grinding. This can cause pain and even spasms.
  • Another common problem is when the dentist fails to leave enough space between the teeth for flossing. This can cause bacteria to build up and create other complications.

5. Misdiagnosis. If dentists don’t perform their work carefully and in accordance with recognized levels of care, they can diagnosis a patient incorrectly.

  • Even a failure to diagnose a patient when symptoms are present can lead to severe medical problems and lasting complications.
  • A misdiagnosis can result in a patient receiving unnecessary procedures and treatments for problems that don’t exist.
  • As helpful as it can be, even technology can pose a problem for dentists. Modern technology allows dentists to detect even slight dental abnormalities. This can result in a patient receiving treatment that they don’t need.
  • Dentists can also commit malpractice by telling patients that they need procedures that they don’t really need. For example, decay is the primary reason for crowning a tooth. If a dentist uses crowns as a routine practice or for aesthetic reasons, it may amount to malpractice.


If you have concerns about medical care provided to you by a dentist, contact an experienced legal profesional to discuss your options such as the personal injury lawyer Minneapolis MN locals turn to.

Johnston-Martineau-PLLP Thanks to authors at Johnston Martineau PLLP for their insight into Personal Injury Law.

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