As a lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia who specializes in Dental Malpractice Injuries, I receive lots of calls from Georgia patients who have been severely injured by Atlanta dentists. The calls are many, and at the outset, I must point out, that not every injury in the dental chair is caused by dental malpractice. In other words, some people are injured as a the result of a dental procedures and the injury is something that can happen absent malpractice. It is part of my job, as a lawyer evaluating dental injuries, to identify those types of injuries (dental injuries that occur through no fault of the dentist) and eliminate those cases from consideration. After all, it is the goal of every good lawyer to steadfastly pursue the good cases to trial (if that’s what it takes) and not expend valuable resources and time (from the lawyer, law firm, and potential client who is dragged into litigation when ultimately the case has no merit) on a case that falters due to a lack of provable malpractice.
One such injury that is almost always caused by dental malpractice is something called trigeminal neuralgia (TN), which is sometimes known as “the suicide disease.” It is brought on when the brain’s trigeminal nerve, which carries sensation from the brain to the face, is disrupted, sending unfounded but very powerful pain signals to the brain. The trigeminal nerve breaks off into the lingual nerve and the inferior alveolar nerve and these two nerves are involved in the majority of dental nerve injury trigeminal nerve injuries. Typical dental procedures that cause these types of injuries from malpractice are dental implants placed in the lower jaw, root canals of lower molars and extractions of lower back molars.
Researchers estimate that around five in 100,000 people suffer from trigeminal neuralgia, but it is notoriously difficult to diagnose since the symptoms can overlap with other conditions and accurately describing the pain can be challenging for patients. One woman suffering from trigeminal neuralgia said that the pain might come on while she brushed her teeth, or sometimes, after a gentle gust of wind blew on her cheek. The result was something like an “electric shock,” she said, with no obvious cause. It later evolved into a “constant and excruciating” sensation. When asked by doctors to rate the pain from one to 10, she said it was a 13. “I was thinking, ‘Was I imagining this pain? Where did it come from? Why is it here?'” This is all quite typical of many of my clients who have suffered this injury at the hands of a negligent dentist or oral surgeon.