As evidenced by recently filed lawsuit, dental injuries from malpractice that are compensable in a lawsuit can include, in addition to dental nerve injuries, lost wages, pain and suffering and loss of consortium, such injuries as burns inside the mouth caused by fire. Of course, to be recoverable in a court of law, the injuries must be caused by dental malpractice.
As reported previously, a pediatric dentist is being sued for dental malpractice for improperly using a diamond bur to smooth his patient’s teeth while she was under anesthetics. The procedure then caused a spark that ignited the throat pack in the mouth and produced a fire inside the patient’s mouth and resulted in burns that the lawsuit is seeking recovery for.
The case is in suit and is seeking recovery for burns to the epiglottis, throat, tongue, mouth, lips, and surrounding areas. In addition, due to the area of the injury, the lawsuit alleged that some of the injuries may be permanent and disabling.
According to the dental expert whose opinion was relied in in filing the lawsuit, “It is my opinion that [the dental practice] breached the standard of care by failing to adequately protect the airway, committing a series of acts which set up a truly ‘incendiary’ situation.”
This type of result from dental malpractice is very rare and involves not adequately protecting against what is known as the fire triangle. When dentists are using diamond burs to create endodontic access, adjust occlusion, finish, or remove crowns, they should use copious amounts of water spray. Also, burs operating on tooth structure don’t get nearly as hot or provide sparks, unlike metal restorations or especially dental ceramics. This can be a critical understanding when adjusting newer pediatric zirconium pre-fabricated crowns, particularly on a patient with supplemental oxygen and/or nitrous oxide.
What is more common, but certainly related to the above malpractice is when a dentist or endodondist fails to adequately protect the patients airway and drops something down the patient’s throat. It is the dentist’s duty to make sure that the patient’s airway is protected and that the procedure (whether it is a tooth extraction, placing a crown, a root canal or any other type of dental procedure) is performed in such a way that the patient is not exposed to the risk of ingesting any of the instruments used in the procedure. Of course, this is a basic requirement of dentistry as the patient is laid back in the dental chair and has no ability to protect against swallowing the instruments or dental medicaments if their airway is not fully protected by the dentist. The swallowing of instruments during dental procedures, although rare, almost always gives rise to a dental malpractice case against the dentist because it is almost always the result of malpractice.
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.