Legal Question in Medical Malpractice in Texas

Is this malpractice?

I went to a dentist to get a metal filling on a tooth with a cavity around 05/2009. I was told that the tooth will be sensitive for up to 8 weeks. Afterwards, I noticed slight sensitivity and also noticed when I would chew something hard, the tooth would hurt, as if something was jabbing into my jaw. Because I knew the tooth was still healing during the 8 weeks I decided to just avoid eating hard items or if I did, I would just chew on the other side of my mouth. This became a routine even after the 8 weeks because the tooth would only when I would eat something hard. Then about 7 months later I stated to notice sensitivity to sweet, cold and hot items. Around the 8th month, I realized I could not eat anything sweet around that area and needed to go see a dentist. On April, 20, 2010, while eating pizza(not hard, nor sweet), I experienced the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. My tooth was throbbing, my temple, my left eye and even my neck began to feel stiff and in pain. I have had teeth that needed a root canal in the past and knew how painful tooth pain could be, but this was by far the worst pain I had ever experienced in my life. When I would softly touch the temple of my head, the pain would be as if I was cutting myself with my fingers. After that, I experienced that pain once more before I knew if I did not see a dentist; my life would be in danger.

I went to a low cost dentist, because I was no longer insured. The dentist done x-rays and told me my tooth was severely infected and I would need a root canal or an extraction. The dentist referred me to a specialist because my pressure was extremely high, which he said was most likely caused by the tooth infection. I asked the dentist how could a tooth where I just got work on less than a year ago could go bad so quickly, being that I had other teeth in my mouth that needed crowns on for over 3 years now and they are not going bad as quickly. The dentist stated that he don’t know because a tooth that was worked on a year ago should not go bad so quickly, unless the filling was not done correctly.

Because I knew for sure that it was that specific tooth #20 that was giving me problems, I went back to the dentist where I had the work done. They agreed to look at me for free. After examining my x-rays, the dentist stated the tooth was infected and that my pressure was high. He examined the tooth personally and noted that the metal had cracked down the middle. The dentist then stated, he never experienced something like that before. He went on to state metal don’t usually crack, he has never had that material brake on him before and that something was probably hitting my bone. He also stated that maybe my filling was too high and that he could have shaved down the filling for me if it was too high. I asked him why was I in so much pain and was it because of that hitting of the bone statement he made. I explained to him I have had infected teeth/nerves before and the pain was bad but nothing like this, since he said the nerve infection caused the pain. He then told me that he would work on the tooth and apply the money I paid before to have the teeth fixed as a credit and that I have two options. My options were either a root canal or an extraction. Being that he was willing to give me a credit for a cavity towards an expensive root canal or an inexpensive extraction, I told him, “I know root canals are expensive and I don’t have insurance at the moment so my only option would be an extraction.” I was set up to have the extraction the very next day. The receptionist told me it was only a $10 difference between the credit from the previous work and the extraction so I was free to go, no charge.

The next day, as I sat in the room for over an hour after being called to the back at 3:00 I begin to think back to 2009 and how I knew this dentist would somehow mess up my teeth. Thinking, I remember how unprofessional he was while doing my teeth. Talking about weekend plans with the dental assistants, joking with his twin brother and constantly looking up to look at the face of the people he was talking too instead of focusing on the work he was doing in my mouth. I saw a repeat behavior as he came in at 4:05 to numb my mouth, and began to look at the television on in the room then looking at the dental assistant and conversing with her about a show where an Asian guy took his clothes off and got into a tub of ice water for money, all while shaking my jaw and injecting meds via a needle in my mouth. As soon as he was done with that, he went on to another client to assist them until the area was numb.

About 25 minutes later he came to extract my tooth. He told me he do them standing up, and gave me the normal instructions about raising a hand if I feel something. I was a little leery about the procedure because at some point I felt as if I could feel something that I knew I should not feel. I have had 6 teeth pulled before and I know there is some feeling but this was not what I was use to. At, some point, I grunted, “unhh uhh”, began shaking my head no and raised my hand but he continued and gave a big yank and pulled out the tooth. He then stated, “you felt something right there towards the end, yeah that’s how it normally is.” He then gave me the usual spill, no spitting and take your antibiotics/pain meds and in less than one minute after taking my tooth he and the dental assistant was gone. My tooth still lay there, uncovered on the tray. This was the first time I actually saw the tooth that was pulled out of my mouth. The dental assist then returned with a bag of gauze and a pamphlet telling me I was free to go. As, I was leaving out, just that quick I saw the dentist in the room working on another client.

There are so many issues I have with this dentist; I don’t even know where to start. But my biggest issues is the work he done on my mouth. Had the work been done correctly in the beginning, I would still have a tooth. I do know there is room for error, but that’s exactly why dentist should take their job serious to where you focus on the work your doing.

To what degree are dentist liable for their work? The professional manner and distractibility of this dentist insures me that a lot of his work is done incorrectly. If I am raising my hand, saying no, and trying to talk, why would you continue to yank a tooth out my mouth?

Also, I had a tooth when I went to him and due to his negligence and improper fixing; the tooth became infected. I don’t believe he was able to see metal cracked by simply looking at the tooth. I had been to two prior dentist and neither one saw a crack in metal but him. It seem like he wanted to blame the material for a job done bad.

Of the 6 teeth I have had removed from my mouth, 4 were wisdom teeth and one was from a cavity that was infected for too long and the other the tooth broke and could not be saved. Although, I may not have money at the time to take care of some of my teeth, I feel that every tooth in my mouth is valuable. Being that it was his negligence and improper practice that caused the infection, he should have done everything possible to save my tooth free of charge. To give someone without insurance an option between a costly root canal and an extraction for a tooth that you incorrectly fixed is not really an option. Had this dentist offered me a discount on the root canal or some type of leverage for his error besides a credit of the money I paid, towards whichever option I chose, I would have most definitely chose to save my teeth.

Is it legal for dentist to jump from client to client room to room during procedures with simply a change of gloves? I know doctors go from patient to patient after finishing but I have never seen a dentist/doctor hop from room to room within treatment, without even taking a minute to make sure you are free of blood, sanitized, etc. When I left the dentist office, my friend had to tell me I had me blood was all over my face.

Are there guidelines for professionalism? Watching television, joking with your co-workers, siblings, while doing work on clients should not be acceptable and I personally feel this is the reason his work was not done correctly.

Asked on 4/23/10, 9:15 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Jason Kipness Kipness Law Firm

You would need to get all medical/dental records and meet with a malpractice lawyer.

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Answered on 5/05/10, 2:42 pm

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