Dental procedures like tooth extractions, implants, root canals, and orthodontic work require care and close attention to detail. Countless nerve endings reside in the human mouth and jaws, and damage to these nerves may lead to diminished sensory function, reduced physical sensation, and impaired motor function. After suffering nerve damage from a dental procedure, you may experience several negative effects that constitute grounds for a dental malpractice claim. To learn more about your available legal options, speak with a medical malpractice attorney in West Virginia.
How Does Nerve Damage Happen?
The nerves throughout the human body transmit signals between the brain and the rest of the body. When a nerve suffers any type of damage, it interferes with the transmission of these signals and may lead to permanent symptoms. When it comes to dental work, the two nerves most likely to suffer injury are the lingual nerve and the inferior alveolar nerve. The lingual nerve runs across the tongue. Damaging this nerve may result in diminished taste sensation, numb tongue, oral pain, and altered oral sensations.
The inferior alveolar nerve runs through the bony canal in the jaw below the bottom teeth. This nerve controls sensations in the lower lip, chin, gums, and lower teeth. Injuries to the inferior alveolar nerve are most common in implant procedures, root canals, and extractions of the lower teeth. Any damage to this nerve may result in problems with chewing and swallowing foods and beverages, speaking, or may affect taste sensations.
Proving Dental Malpractice
Pursuing a dental malpractice claim hinges on the same premise of a medical malpractice claim; the claimant must prove that the defendant in the claim violated the standard of care for the situation in question. A few indications that you may have grounds for a dental malpractice case include:
- Tingling, pain, or numbness following a dental procedure that you did not experience before the procedure. While some dental work may result in a few days of discomfort, your dentist or oral surgeon should warn you about this and prepare you accordingly.
- Long-term or permanent damage or alteration to your teeth, jaws, or mouth after a dental procedure. If an injury significantly impairs your oral functions, ability to taste foods, or impairs your ability to eat, drink, or speak, it is likely that the defendant in your claim committed dental malpractice.
- An obvious link between your damages and the dental procedure in question. The claimant must offer proof that his or her injury occurred from the given situation and not some other cause. The plaintiff must also prove that the claimed symptoms appeared after the procedure and not before.
- Failure to secure informed consent. Dentists and other medical professionals have a duty to warn patients of potential risks of any suggested course of treatment.
If you believe you have a valid claim, consult an experienced West Virginia injury lawyer who has a background of successful dental malpractice claims. Your attorney should be able to provide you with an accurate picture of the type of damages you could receive if you win your claim. Your attorney will also consult relevant medical experts who can help strengthen your claim. An expert witness will provide the court with a professional interpretation of a plaintiff’s claim. This testimony not only helps establish that a defendant breached the standard of care in treating a plaintiff, but also helps prove the extent of a plaintiff’s damages.
A dental malpractice lawsuit can lead to compensation for a victim’s medical expenses for corrective or restorative dental work, pain and suffering, and lost income if an injury caused the victim to miss work. It’s also possible to secure additional compensation for long-term damage caused by dental malpractice, or punitive damages if a dentist or oral surgeon was grossly negligent in his or her care.