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Can a Sleeping Dentist be Negligent

According to reports, an Oregon woman is suing her dentist for malpractice, claiming that the dentist’s napping lead, at least in part, to her adverse reaction to local anesthetics. While I am not familiar with the facts of the Oregon case so I decline to comment on the merits of that particular case, it should be noted that negative reactions to epinephrine are quite common and can be serious in patients who suffer from other medical conditions.

The standard of care requires dentists to take this into account before injecting the local anesthetic and, if need be, inject a different local anesthetic that does not contain as much epinephrine. Of course, each case is different and many dental injuries can occur absent malpractice, but many injuries are caused by the dentist deviating from the standard of care and directly causing serious injury. Many of these injuries which were caused by malpractice are permanent and debilitating. If you have been seriously injured in the dental chair and you suspect that your injury may have been caused by malpractice, please call (404) 923-7497, if you wish to discuss the merits of your case.

Injuries to inferior alveolar and lingual nerves are caused by local anesthesia nerve block injections and have an estimated injury incidence of between 1:26,762 to 1:800,000 inferior alveolar nerve blocks. More recently the incidence of nerve injury in relation to nerve block injections has been calculated as 1:609,000 but with a significant increase in injury rate with 4% agents.  These injuries are associated with a 34% incidence of neuropathic pain which is high when compared with other causes of peripheral nerve injury. However the true incidence rate is difficult to gauge without large population surveys. 

Based on what is known in the dental literature to date, you may be at increased risk of an injury, if: 

• You experience pain on injection during treatment;

• You have multiple deep injections;

• The dentist uses a high concentration (i.e., a 4% solution vs. a 2% solution such as Lidocaine, which has been the gold standard in local anesthetics for many years and is not linked to the higher incident rates of nerve injury secondary to nerve blocks) anesthetic agent for deep injections (i.e., nerve block). It is interesting to note that there is no clear evidence that the 4% local anesthetic solutions are more effective than 2% solutions such as Lidocaine. Since the jury is still out on whether the 4% solutions are contributing to the increase incidence of nerve injuries secondary to nerve blocks, it is below the standard of care, in my opinion, for a dentist to subject his patients to a possible increased risk of nerve injury with not clear benefit.

Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling 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.