Cosmetic Dentistry Blog Cosmetic and General Dentistry Questions Answered

July 28, 2011

How to get a refund from the dentist who screwed up.

Dr. Hall,
In November 2009 I had a crown put on my number 8 front tooth. My tooth was slanted from sucking my thumb when I was little, and this was to fix that.

About 3 weeks after my crown was put on my tooth was really sensitive to hot and cold. I was told that was normal for the first few weeks. About 4 months later my tooth was hurting so bad that I had to go to the ER! The next day my face swelled up and I was out of work for 5 days. When I went to another dentist, they told me that my tooth was infected and that I would need a root canal and a new crown. I was like WHAT??? how could this happen? She told me that I had an open margin and it was from the crown not being placed properly.

I called the first dentist, who did the crown, and I told the secretary the situation. I told her that i deserved my money back because for his mistake i have to pay for another crown and a root canal!! she said that once the crown was in my mouth it was my responsibility!! I said even if it was a failed job???

Is he liable for this? Shouldnt he pay?? I have seen the xray and the open margin is huge! ! If he we re to have taken xrays at the end of the job he would have seen the open margin and knew it had to be redone.

At the time I was making payments on the crown and paid a little more than half. After I found out about his mistake i told the office i was not paying the balance . About three months later I got a notice saying he was suing me for the balance! I couldnt believe it ! I of course filled a countersuit and when I went to the small claims court his lawyer told me if i drop the counter claim then the dentist would “forgive my debit”. I said NO I want the money that I paid him and his lawyer said “Well he is not willing to do that.” The case now has to be handled by the superior court because civil court can’t deal with things like this.

My question is should this guy have fixed his mistake? Because of him I was in the most extreme pain I was ever in, I had to miss days of work, I had almost a dozen appointments ( emergency room, doctors and dentist visits), my face swelled up so bad that I could barely see and I had to get a new crown and a root canal . Please let me know what you think!

– Sarah from Massachusetts

You have quite the story!

I have to qualify this because I can’t judge this without seeing. But just going from what you’re telling me, yes, your former dentist is liable for violating the standard of care. The most important thing to check when a new crown is being seated on a tooth is to run the explorer around the margins and make sure there is a good fit to the crown. Usually a dentist won’t take an x-ray before seating a crown, but they always need to run that explorer completely around the margins of the crown and check for any open margins. But having the x-ray you have is good documentation showing his negligence.

The problem, though, in many cases like this is that the dollar amounts involved make it impractical to involve lawyers and to go to trial. But here are a couple of things you can do to increase the pressure on this dentist to refund your money:

1. Threaten to complain to the dental board. Not as serious as a malpractice suit, this is still something that the dentist is strongly motivated to avoid.
2. Have the new dentist help you. A call from one dentist to another, verifying that there was indeed a problem with the work, can be very persuasive. In a trial, you HAVE to have an expert opinion of a dentist to back up any claim of negligence. Your word isn’t good enough.
3. Have a lawyer write a threatening letter. Rather than pay for an entire malpractice case, just having a letter from an attorney can get the dentist to take your complaint more seriously.

Dr. Hall

Click here to read more about porcelain crowns on front teeth.
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About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.


  1. I’m so upset of the work that my dentist did my crowns are falling out of my head and they only want to charge me more money. What am I to do?

    Comment by Mark — March 6, 2018 @ 6:42 pm

  2. I got 15 teeth removed last Wednesday due to recurrent infections and abscesses. Today is day 7. I am returning with a sore, sore face, swelling and lots of infection as from what I can see he broke some of the top teeth and left one behind. I have been getting crushing chest pain and pain and pus and everything for over a week.

    Comment by denise labelle — April 16, 2019 @ 4:27 am

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