Negligence by an orthodontist can turn a positive cosmetic or reparative treatment into a dental nightmare. Braces and other orthodontic treatment such as retainers are among the tools by which orthodontists improve dental aesthetics and correct dental misalignments for their patients. However, in some unfortunate cases orthodontic negligence, often constituting orthodontic malpractice, can occur. This can result in severe consequences for patients, ranging from unsatisfactory aesthetic results to severe damage to the patient’s teeth. Because orthodontic treatment plans may span years, these types of malpractice can go undetected or overlooked until it is too late to file an orthodontic malpractice claim, or nearly too late.
For this reason, it is crucial to understand the signs of harm due to orthodontic negligence and what to do address orthodontic malpractice as soon as it is recognized.
How Does Orthodontic Malpractice Occur
Orthodontic malpractice can come about in various ways, including the orthodontist’s:
- Failure to diagnose or treat underlying dental conditions,
- Improper placement of braces or other orthodontic appliances,
- Inadequate monitoring of treatment progress,
- Use of excessive force through treatment,
- Failure to disclose or discuss potential risks and complications, or
- Inadequate infection control and sterilization procedures.
What Can Result
Such improper use or monitoring of orthodontic techniques or devices can cause a host of problems for patients, some visible or otherwise apparent, some not at all evident. These include:
- Damage to the relationship between upper and lower teeth, causing problems with biting, chewing
- Temporo-mandibular joint problems, resulting in pain and or problems with biting, chewing, opening or closing the mouth
- Root resorption, sometimes with loss of teeth in the aesthetic zone
- Other damage to teeth or gums.
Signs of Possible Trouble During Orthodontic Treatment
- Prolonged pain in the joints of the jaw
- Inability to chew due to alignment/placement of teeth
- Teeth are loose or wobbly (this can occur even with braces on).
Addressing Orthodontic Malpractice
Consult with a Dental Malpractice Attorney
Addressing orthodontic malpractice requires proactive and sometimes time-consuming steps to gather evidence, seek professional opinions, and consider legal action.
The first step is to consult with a dental malpractice attorney with a practice that includes orthodontic cases. Lawyers with such experience possess the necessary expertise to assess the merits of your claim and guide you through the legal process. During the initial consultation, provide them with all relevant documentation and explain the details of your case. The attorney will evaluate the strength of your claim and advise you on the best course of action.
Investigation and Expert Opinion
Your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation to gather evidence supporting your claim of orthodontic malpractice. This may include reviewing your treatment records and other documents, consulting with independent dental experts, and obtaining expert opinions regarding the standard of care and any deviations from it. These experts will play a crucial role in establishing the negligence of the orthodontist and its impact on your oral health.
Filing a Lawsuit
If the investigation reveals sufficient evidence of orthodontic malpractice, your attorney will guide you through the process as a lawsuit is prepared and filed. The attorney will prepare the necessary legal documents, including a complaint outlining the details of the malpractice and the damages you have suffered. Your attorney will also represent your interests in court, presenting your case persuasively and advocating for the compensation you deserve.
Settlement or Trial
In many cases, orthodontists and their insurance companies prefer to settle outside of court to avoid the potential costs and risks of a trial. Your attorney will engage in negotiations on your behalf, striving to reach a fair settlement that adequately compensates you for the damages you have endured. They will leverage their expertise and knowledge of orthodontic malpractice laws to advocate for your rights and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.
If a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiations, your case may proceed to trial. Your attorney will present your evidence to a jury and show the impact it has had on your oral and overall health. They will call upon expert witnesses to testify and will use their legal skills to present a compelling argument in court.
Justice for Orthodontic Negligence
By being proactive, you may be able to protect your oral health or seek justice if you have been harmed by negligence. If you are the victim of orthodontic negligence or malpractice, contact us today at (703) 638-7717 for a free case evaluation.