If you are a dental patient in Georgia and you suspect that your dentist may be recommending treatments you don’t actually need or if you sustain and injury from a dental procedure and suspect that the injury was caused by dental malpractice, you can complain to the dental board. However, the odds are pretty good that nothing will happen and to add insult to injury, many times the dental board will drag out the proceedings until after the statute of limitations has run, effectively precluding you from filing a lawsuit and suing the dentist for the malpractice.
As is true for other medical professions, state dental boards are typically made up of dentists overseeing dentists, leaving the profession to police itself. This is certainly true of the Georgia Board of Dentistry, which, as of last count, is compromised of almost all dentists. While this is the norm, and certainly not illegal, it does cause suspicion as to just how objective the board will be when looking into your situation.
Nationwide, dentists rarely have their licenses pulled by their dental boards. In 2018, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, state boards revoked or suspended only 225 licenses – 0.1% of all dentists. Ten states didn’t suspend a single dentist.
This makes little sense, and flies in the face of the numbers. Most acts of dental malpractice are committed by general dentists who, with little specialized training other than what they received in dental school, attempt to perform procedures that are better off left to specialists. These procedures include, but are certainly not limited to, root canals, complicated extraction and dental implants. Many people are injured when the dentist is not properly trained and causes an injury when performing the dental procedure and, most often, the injury results in nerve damage to one of the dental nerves that run under the teeth. A lot of times, the patient tries to address the injury with the dentist, who seems interested in helping at first, when no headway is made with the dentist, the patient (in good faith and hoping for a positive resolution) turns to the Georgia Board of Dentistry. Once again, the board of dentistry provide hope and encouragement to the injured patient and promises that they will thoroughly investigate the case. What can happen is that the board makes a lengthy investigation, fully aware that the 2 year statute of limitations is in effect and is NOT tolled by a board of dentistry investigation and completes the investigation well after the 2 year anniversary of the injury. Once the board comes back and says that the dentist did nothing wrong, the injured patient (who can’t believe what they are hearing because they are sure the dentist was negligent and the negligence cause the horrible nerve injury that has changed their life) attempts to find a Georgia dental malpractice attorney who can help at this point. Unfortunately, the potential client must be told that the statute of limitations has expired and they cannot sue the dentist. This is a hard scenario, but the fact is it happens more than you you think. It is unfair, and it is not just. But, the law has little sympathy (or relief) for those good-natured patient who try to work the dispute out with the dentist and then the dental board without first consulting with an attorney.
Robert J. Fleming is a partner in the law firm of Katz Wright Fleming & Dodson, 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 severely 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 counties in Georgia and nearby cities such as Alpharetta, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Roswell, Sandy Springs, and Stone Mountain. If you or a family member has 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.