Have you ever wondered if your dentist is filling cavities that, well, may not be cavities after all. As an Atlanta dental malpractice lawyer, I have received many calls from potential clients claiming just this. A common scenario, a patient has been seeing the same general dentist for 15 years and, for one reason or another, she switches to another dentist. The new dentist performs a thorough intake, a series of high-tech diagnostics including x-rays and maybe cone bean CT scans. Lo and behold, the patient is informed that she needs 10 cavities filled. Now, does this scenario indicate that there might be dental malpractice on behalf of the prior treating dentist, the one who treated the patient for the past 15 years and who has never mentioned these “cavities” or does it indicate that the new dentist may be guilty of malpractice for over-treating. The answer, as always with the law: it depends. New technologies now help dentists locate minor abnormalities that may or may not ultimately turn into full-blown cavities. These problems do not require dental filling procedures, but far too many dentists recommend these anyway.
The New York Times is reporting on increasingly sophisticated dental technologies that allow the detection of minor abnormalities, like incipient carious lesions. An incipient carious lesion is one of the earliest stages of structural damage, usually caused by bacterial infections. These infections may or may not lead to a full-blown cavity. In some cases, the lesion can be treated by minerals in the saliva.
Many experts are of the opinion that these minor cavities do not need to be treated with a dental filling because damage to the enamel has not yet begun. However, a majority of dentists do not hesitate to operate on a tooth that has minor damage, and decay that has not progressed beyond the enamel. These treatments are not only painful, but also expensive.
Some incipient carious lesions cannot be seen with x-rays or the naked eye, but can be detected through fiber-optic techniques and infrared laser scanning. By using these techniques, dentists now find it possible to locate minor cavities that do not require filling, and proceed to perform these procedures anyway.
What makes all this even more confusing for consumers is that different dentists use different philosophies in such situations, and the American Dental Association is not particularly helpful. The American Dental Association does not have any specific policy regarding the treatment of incipient caries. A patient who has enjoyed good dental hygiene for several years, and suddenly finds a new dentist identifying numerous cavities and recommending filling procedures, may want to get a second opinion.
Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, automobile accident cases, personal injury cases, dental malpractice and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years in and around Atlanta, Georgia and its surrounding areas, including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured and would like quality legal representation, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.