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.
But today, this bizarre and intense pain is can become merely an unpleasant memory thanks to Toronto neurosurgeon Dr. Mojgan Hodaie (who is, perhaps, the leading microneurosurgeon in the field of trigeminal nerve repair) and others. During a typical TN surgery, Dr. Hodaie begins by making an incision in the skull and probing to the site of the trigeminal nerve, which is around nine centimetres into the brain. In some cases, the nerve is pinned by an errant blood vessel, which the surgeon repositions before placing a Teflon barrier to prevent contact from reoccurring. Still, in other case and most times in case of TN secondary to dental procedures, the nerve has been damaged by dental materials or instruments and the nerve is accessed in the jaw, freed from the neuroma or other factor causing the nerve injury, and repaired.
The procedure takes around 90 minutes and is performed pretty much every day here in Atlanta and in the rest of the United State and Canada.. The surgery took about six hours when it was first developed around 40 years ago and about 90 per cent of patients report a loss of pain immediately after the surgery, while around 75 per cent remain pain-free five years after the operation.
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 and dental malpractice 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 dental related 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.