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
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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.
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I am 37 and have always been very nervous about getting my wisdom teeth out. Recently I got a small infection in one of my lower wisdom teeth that is slightly covered with tissue. This caused me to get my wisdom teeth evaluated. They did a 3D scan of my wisdom teeth and said the top 2 would be easy but the bottom 2 are close to the nerve. One wisdom tooth on the bottom is pushing on on the second molar but not covered by tissue and the other bottom wisdom tooth is not pushing on the second molar but is slightly covered with tissue. The oral surgeon said that they were both close to the nerve but the one that is pushing on the 2nd molar is slightly closer, about 1 mm away from the nerve. I was wondering how risky is 1 mm of space between the tip of the root and the nerve? What are my chances of it being damaged? And if my chances are high of damage…..will it be slight or could it be severe? Thank you very much.
– Tiffany from Ohio
Because of the legal climate in this country, the smartest thing for oral surgeons and other dental specialists is to overstate the risks involved in these procedures. Risk exaggeration is a great way to help insure that they won’t be the target of a malpractice lawsuit if something goes wrong.
So you come to me for a little more honesty, and that’s what I’m here for. Here’s the story on the risk of damage to the inferior alveolar nerve – the nerve that runs to the jaw and the lip – with a wisdom tooth extraction. If the nerve truly is one millimeter away from the tooth, and you have an experienced oral surgeon who has taken out hundreds of wisdom teeth, that is a very minimal risk. In order to damage the nerve, the surgeon would have to take the tooth out and then drill down into the bone another millimeter, and why would they do that? Or they would have to break the tooth and then make the mistake of applying downward pressure on the remaining root fragment in an attempt to get it out. They are all taught techniques for avoiding that downward pressure during an extraction.
I have taken out wisdom teeth that were sitting right on top of the nerve, with no space between the nerve and the tooth, and never had a permanent nerve injury. On rare occasions, the nerve would be fine right after the surgery, but then the next day it would start to feel tingly or abnormal. In those cases, there is swelling that is pressing down on the nerve, and I would need to prescribe a steroid for a few days to control the swelling to avoid compressing of the nerve. But if the nerve is protected by even one millimeter of bone, there isn’t really much chance of even that temporary problem happening. I even had one case where the nerve ran right through the middle of the tooth. I was able to split the tooth around the nerve without nicking or severing the nerve. However, the operation stretched the nerve, which damaged it, but the nerve was able to repair itself over time.
I hope this is helpful. When a wisdom tooth gets infected, there is little choice but to have it out. Moral – tell all your friends and your friends’ children that if there is any chance of wisdom teeth causing problems later in life, have them out when you are young (like under 25) when the operation is much easier on everybody.
I hope this is helpful,
– Dr. Hall
Recently I had $25,000 worth of porcelain crowns on both my top and bottom teeth-paid up front. I went for my consultation, picked my smile style, and told the consultant that I wanted a white bright smile that looked natural. I was given something to lighten my bottom teeth. I also had a metal bridge replaced so that it would match my upper teeth. All top teeth were crowned. After extensive xrays and mouth impressions, I was fitted with a temporary set of teeth. I was told that by wearing the temps, I would be able to see how my teeth would look, the shape and size, and color, in case I wanted to make any changes in my porcelain crowns. I was also told that I was the one who had to be happy. Two weeks later, when my crowns came in, the first thing I noticed as they were on the table was that they looked dark. I commented on this, but the girl who was to put them on said that they would look different in my mouth. When she put them in (not cemented) she told me to be careful when I sat up to look in the mirror because they were not in yet. From the moment I looked at them, I said “They are too dull!” I continued to say this, even as they were falling out and I could see I had no teeth left on top. By the way, I went in because my front teeth had been bonded years ago and had been chipped away by my bottom teeth. Other than that, I had strong, white teeth. As I continued to say I did not like them, she said suggested we go outside in the natural light with a mirror. Even on the outside, I kept saying I did not like them and that they looked dull. She told me that my eyes were playing tricks on me because I was used to the white temporaries and that once on, I would see a difference. We went back in and I looked in the big mirror above the sink in her lab. One of my front teeth feel on the floor and she picked it up and watched it off…. I was about to cry. Then the girl who cleans the teeth stepped in and said how I would love them once they were in and polished up. Never once did the doctor I paid the money to come in to see what was going on…Never once was I offered an option like, “Do you want them whiter?”
I was so frustrated and upset. I felt pushed against the wall about the matter, having no teeth in my mouth and being convinced that I was seeing things. Needless to say, she cemented them in. After they were in, the doctor came in and started trying to level my top and bottom teeth. Once he found out I was unhappy, I had to tell him, he told me to wear them a week and come back and he would finish … He said we want you to be happy.
After a week, I went back. In the light I had also discovered that the bridge I had replaced did not even match the other teeth. The girl said, You have a metal bridge (4 teeth @ $1700) so it’s going to be different. I explained to the doctor that I had tried to tell the girl before she put them in I was unhappy with the color… He said ” Well we have to be fair to everyone, the lab, the workers ,,, no way can we redo what we have done.” He then said maybe he could remove the stain on my porcelain crowns to match the white bridge. I am suppose to go back in a week. He said if the lab used a certain stain, this might be possible. I am so upset. I trusted these people. I don’t know what to do. My husband is going to go with me this next visit. I have to go back. I can’t eat with the crowns because they have not been level and are very painful. Any suggestions? Thanks for any help!
– Sandi from Texas
If I am sizing up correctly what was done to you, based on the story you have told, you are the victim of seriously unethical cosmetic dentistry. You were told that they would be sure you were happy with your smile makeover, but it sounds like they had no intention of actually honoring that promise.
Again, if I am sizing up this situation correctly, and if it happened the way you told me, you are dealing with very pushy people, and you are going to have to take a different tack if you are going to get anywhere. You have to be willing to get a lot more serious with your complaints and maybe get some legal help. Are you up to standing up for your own rights?
If these teeth were put in over your objections, then this is classic malpractice. A fundamental principle of health care is that all treatment is rendered with informed consent. When you didn’t consent to the treatment, and they put in the teeth anyway, legally, that amounts to assault. But if you are going to get anywhere, you have to have some steel in your spine and be willing to stand up to these people. And just having your husband go in with you to the appointment isn’t good enough.
My judgment would be that you will need to help this dentist see that he is legally on thin ice in order to get him to fix this. I would suggest getting a lawyer to write a letter that suggests that you may sue them unless they totally redo this for you and honor the promise they originally made that you had to be happy with how they look before they would put them in. Or, if you don’t want to do that, you could take this e-mail and that might help open their eyes. Then, if they don’t agree, you could go to a lawyer.
For additional help, I could line you up with a great cosmetic dentist not too far from you. If it were me, I wouldn’t settle for this dentist re-doing the work. I wouldn’t ever let him touch my teeth again. Instead, I would demand that he pay me to have the work re-done by someone more compassionate and skillful. At this point, do you trust him? I wouldn’t.