As a dental malpractice attorney in Atlanta, I see many types of claims for damages resulting from dental malpractice. Sometimes, the injury sustained due to the malpractice is discreet and not ongoing, but still debilitating. Other times, the injury is ongoing, permanent and renders the client unable to perform her normal duties at work. Still others are more unique, in that the client has a special talent of career which is impacted by a dental injury (such as a dental nerve injury that affects the ability to use the tongue or lips) and this ruins a promising career or talent. As an example, a musician who must use her mouth to play her instrument can purse claims for the loss of her career following an allegedly botched procedure by a dentist. This is the situation in a closely followed case that is just entering litigation. The musician, who has performed in orchestras in areas outside of Atlanta, claims in her lawsuit that her face could prematurely age because of irreversible bone loss as a result of negligent work performed by the defendant dentist. According to the suit, in an attempt to avoid jaw surgery after lifelong dental and breathing problems, the plaintiff sought an alternative. The dentist defendant, treated her unsuccessfully for years before placing an anterior growth device and controlled arch braces, in the musician’s mouth.
According to the plaintiff’s account, the device was supposed to be a substitute for jaw surgery by stimulating new bone growth, helping to move teeth and the the jaw forward and improve her airway. Instead, the plaintiff claims in pleadings that the device worsened the condition and that the use of the device was below the standard of care of what a reasonably prudent dentist would do under like or similar circumstances (what is known as the standard of care in Georgia) because it is unproven and not supported by medical knowledge or science. Due to the alleged malpractice, the plaintiff fears that she could lose four to six front teeth, and, over time vertical height in her front jaw leading to the early aging of her face.
The above is an interesting example of the what the law calls an “egg shell plaintiff.” In other words, if one commits dental malpractice and, due to some unique factors that apply only to the injured plaintiff, the damages are exponentially increased (such as the loss of a music career due to a dental injury), the defendant is liable for all of those damages so long as the remaining elements of the claim are proven by the Plaintiff. Another example would be a professional athlete who can no longer play professional sports due to an injury sustained from dental malpractice. As is true with every case, even with damages, the plaintiff must prove duty, breach and causation to prevail in a dental malpractice claim in Georgia.