As an Atlanta personal injury lawyer, a large part of my legal practice is devoted to helping those injured by dental malpractice. Many of these injuries occur secondary to the placement of dental implants. Dental implants are preferred for tooth restoration over dental bridges because they are esthetically more appealing and have the functioning ability of real teeth. In addition, due to the implants being anchored in the jawbone, they mimic normal tooth structure and this prevents jaw bone resorption, which occurs when patients go from having teeth to wearing dentures. And though generally considered safe, the procedure does present some risk to the patient. Some reports indicate that as many as 13% of all implant procedures result in some type of nerve injury.
Serious nerve injuries often occur when dentists drill past the jawbone into the inferior alveolar nerve or actually position the implant itself on the nerve. The usual symptoms are numbness, severe pain, and/or discomfort in the patients mouth or face that was not felt prior to the placement of the implant. Therefore, proper location of the nerve prior to performing the procedure is necessary and required under the applicable standard of care.
The most commonly employed method used in finding the position of the nerve is a radiograph, but tomograph and computerized tomography is similarly used. According to the Journal of Implantology, correctly measuring the available bone or the simple use of a drill guard can preclude over penetration.
For well over 25 years, a safety zone of two millimeters has been prescribed between the drill depth for the implant and the jaw nerve beneath. When a patient is injured, ascertaining the cause of the problem will determine the necessary response. And a three-dimensional cone beam (CBCT) x – ray can verify if the jaw nerve was reached during drilling.
If a serious nerve injury does occur after the implant is place, the patient should be prescribed steroids or other anti-inflammatory drugs to control inflammation. Gradually, feeling may return, but if progress isn’t noticed within about two months, the treating dentist should refer the patient to a micro neurosurgeon to evaluate the injured nerve. The damaged nerve can begin to degenerate four to six months after being injured, so immediate attention is required. Conversely, if the nerve is showing signs of regenerating on its own, surgical intervention is counter-indicated, as the nerve may continue to heal and not require surgery for it to recover.
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.