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Dental Malpractice in Georgia Could Include Fraud and Unnecessary Procedures

Georgia patients are injured every day from dental procedures. Common dental procedures are not always as safe, effective, or durable as we are meant to believe. As a profession, dentistry has not yet applied the same level of self-scrutiny as medicine, or embraced as sweeping an emphasis on scientific evidence. “We are isolated from the larger health-care system. So when evidence-based policies are being made, dentistry is often left out of the equation,” says Jane Gillette, a dentist in Bozeman, Montana, who works closely with the the ADA committee on evidence-based dentistry. “We’re kind of behind the times, but increasingly we are trying to move the needle forward.”

According to a recent article in the Atlantic Magazine, “excessive diagnosis and treatment are endemic,” says Jeffrey H. Camm, a dentist of more than 35 years who wryly described his peers’ penchant “creative diagnosis” in a 2013 commentary published by the American Dental Association. “I don’t want to be damning. I think the majority of dentists are pretty good.” But many have “this attitude of ‘Oh, here’s a spot, I’ve got to do something.’ I’ve been contacted by all kinds of practitioners who are upset because patients come in and they already have three crowns, or 12 fillings, or another dentist told them that their 2-year-old child has several cavities and needs to be sedated for the procedure.”

The article also cites Trish Walraven, who worked in a dental office for 25 years and now manages a dental-software company with her husband, and recalls many troubling cases: “We would see patients seeking a second opinion, and they had treatment plans telling them they need eight fillings in virgin teeth. We would look at X-rays and say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ It was blatantly overtreatment—drilling into teeth that did not need it whatsoever.”

Recently, a team of Swiss researchers asked a volunteer patient with three tiny, shallow cavities to visit 180 randomly selected dentists in Zurich, Switzerland. The Swiss Dental Guidelines state that such minor cavities do not require fillings; rather, the dentist should monitor the decay and encourage the patient to brush regularly, which can reverse the damage. Despite this, 50 of the 180 dentists suggested unnecessary treatment. Their recommendations were incongruous: Collectively, the overzealous dentists singled out 13 different teeth for drilling; each advised one to six fillings. Similarly, Reader’s Digest investigative writer William Ecenbarger visited 50 dentists in 28 states in the U.S. and received treatment plans ranging from a single crown to a full-mouth reconstruction, with the price tag starting at about $500 and going up to nearly $30,000. All of this, on the same set of teeth!

How can this be? Are some dentists motivated by money at the expense of what is best for the patient. You be the judge. But, don’t for a minute think that the answer is anything other than a resounding yes. Of course, there are many fine dentists out there who do there best to provide the treatment and care that is best for the patient. We salute those professionals. However, we know that there are many other dentists out there who provide sub-par care, over-bill, and perform unnecessary treatment. This has been documented many times over. And, these are the dentists in Georgia who face the scrutiny of the Georgia Dental Board, and more importantly, the jurors who sit on dental malpractice cases in Georgia.

Robert J. Fleming is a partner in the law firm of Katz Wright Fleming Dodson & Mildenhall, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia and Decatur, Georgia. He is a personal injury attorney who has been handling wrongful death, dental malpractice, professional negligence, car accidents and premises injury cases for individuals and families who have been injured or died as a result of negligence for over 25 years. He practices in the Atlanta, Georgia area including handling lawsuits in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Cobb and other counties in Georgia and nearby cities such as Alpharetta, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you, or a family member, have been seriously injured and would like to discuss your case in complete confidence, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online. We are here to help.

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