Dentists are professional healthcare providers in Florida and are strictly regulated by the State. Before a dentist can practice they must pass written exams as well as demonstrate hands-on proficiency in a wide variety of procedures and techniques. Once they pass their exams and are licensed, they must adhere to what is known as the standard of care in their treatment of patients.
The term standard of care has legal and practical meaning to dentists and all health care professionals in Florida:
- “…The prevailing professional standard of care for a given health care provider shall be that level of care, skill, and treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.”
What does this really mean? Basically, it means that a dentist has the duty to provide a level and degree of treatment and care that a similarly skilled and credentialed dentist would provide under similar circumstances. Within the field of dentistry, there are protocols that are to be followed by the dentist. These protocols are designed for the safety and well-being of the patient, of the public.
Examples of Dental Negligence
Dental negligence may occur in many ways, including the following examples:
- Improperly performed dental procedures - deviating from accepted protocols
- Unsanitary dental office – not disinfecting office - unclean, germ-ridden, dirty surfaces, floors, chairs
- Dental instruments not sterilized and unsanitary – can carry disease from patient to patient
- Dentist and personnel not wearing gloves or masks or taking proper precautions
- Performing procedures without the patient’s knowledge, consent or approval
- Misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose or waiting too long to diagnose a condition
- Sexual misconduct – taking advantage of a patient while under anesthesia, Sec. 466.027 Fl. Stat.
- Failure to take a thorough dental and medical history
- Harming the tongue, cheeks, nerves, or gums
- Telling patient they need a procedure that they actually do not need strictly for financial gain
- Extracting teeth that do not need to be extracted – for financial gain
- Negligently extracting the wrong teeth
- Root canal damage
- Dentist or staff is unlicensed
- Failing to detect dental problems
- Failing to use or properly use diagnostic equipment such as X-rays
What Happens When a Dentist Is Negligent and Deviates from the Standard of Care?
When a Florida dentist fails to adhere to the standard of care, negligently harming the patient, the injured party may pursue damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. If the patient dies as a result of the dentist’s negligence and failure to adhere to the standard of care, the deceased’s legal heirs may seek compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. In both cases, monetary compensation, or damages, is sought.
Economic damages include those that can be quantified, such as past and future medical expenses and past and future lost income that is a result of the injury or injuries. Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, disfigurement, emotional distress, loss of companionship and other damages that need to be evaluated and determined on a case-by-case basis. Punitive damages may be sought when the dentist or healthcare professional engaged in particularly egregious, reckless or injurious conduct. For example, if a patient is sexually molested by the dentist while under sedation, punitive damages may likely be pursued. The intention of punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer.
You can reach Personal Injury Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email J.P. directly at [email protected].