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Dental Negligence

When is it Dental Negligence?

Malpractice claims are not limited to mistakes or sub-standard care by doctors. Other medical professionals, such as dentists, can also be guilty of negligence. Let’s examine dental negligence to help you determine whether or not you are entitled to compensation for damages suffered.

What is Dental Negligence?

Dental malpractice is when a dental professional, such as a dentist, dental hygienist, dental nurse and so forth, failed to provide a reasonable standard of care, causing the patient to suffer injury and financial damage. Not every mistake made by a dental professional constitutes malpractice. Only when the patient suffers injury as a direct result of the gross negligence of the medical professional can it qualify as malpractice.

Examples of Dental Negligence

Negligence and malpractice lawsuits or claims are initiated against dental professionals for failure to diagnose dental problems, misdiagnosis of conditions, sub-standard care, lack of care, and failure to refer the patient to a specialist.

The dental professional can, for instance, fail to diagnose oral cancer or periodontal disease. In another instance, the health professional can administer anaesthesia incorrectly, causing the patient to suffer a brain injury or extreme pain during a procedure. The professional can use dental instruments incorrectly, causing injury to the patient’s mouth. A dentist’s failure to perform a thorough examination may cause a serious condition to go unnoticed. Also, the health professional may perform additional medical procedures on the patient beyond the consent to the treatment given by the patient.

A mistake made during a procedure can cause permanent nerve damage, which can be extremely painful and cause the patient to lose the enjoyment of life amenities. Unnecessary treatments, insufficient hygiene care causing oral infection, and over-prescription of medication are among the list of possible malpractice instances.

Important Factors to Consider

As the plaintiff, you must be able to prove that the dentist failed to provide the required standard of care and that this failure caused the injury and damage you suffered. Your injury must be the direct result of the action or lack thereof by the medical professional in providing a reasonable standard of care.

The action or lack thereof by the dental professional is compared with what other dental professionals with similar qualifications and reasonable skills in a similar situation would have done. The customs or best practice guidelines in the profession form the basis for comparison. Medical expert witnesses are called in to assess how the dentist’s performance compares to that of other professionals of average skill in a similar situation.

The doctor-patient relationship may seem obvious, but a patient cannot initiate legal steps against a healthcare professional not directly involved and responsible for their care. One cannot, for instance, initiate legal steps against a dental professional for advice given to your dentist on the treatment of your particular condition. The professional does not have a duty of care towards you and the doctor-patient relationship does not exist between you and the third party.


As with other medical malpractice cases, you are entitled to compensation for past and future medical expenses, past and future loss of earnings, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life amenities.

Take the First Step

Seek legal guidance to determine whether your injury is the result of dental negligence. Call Adele van der Walt Incorporated for legal help.


Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Call on our attorneys for legal advice, rather than relying on the information herein to make any decisions. The information is relevant to the date of publishing – October 2019.

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