Dental And Oral Surgeon Malpractice: Nerve Injuries From Tooth Extractions

Dental Malpractice

Dental extractions are a common procedure in the dentist’s office.  This procedure involves removing or pulling a tooth.  However, these procedures can become complicated and risky.  Poorly done extractions can result in permanent nerve damage to the face.

A dentist may perform a dental extraction for a variety of reasons, such as to minimize overcrowding of teeth or to prepare for braces.  An extraction may be performed to remove the following types of teeth:

  • Broken teeth
  • Decayed teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Wisdom teeth

Once a dentist has decided that it is necessary to perform an extraction, an x-ray examination is needed to complete a further evaluation of the tooth.  Then the extraction is performed while the patient is under local anesthesia to minimize any discomfort.  There are two types of extractions:

  • Simple Extractions – This type of extraction is most often performed on a tooth that can be seen in the mouth.  The dentist will most often use forceps to remove the tooth.
  • Surgical Extraction – This procedure is often necessary for more complex extractions and may need to be performed by an oral surgeon.  Surgical extractions are more common in cases where a tooth has broken at the gum line or has not descended into the mouth.  In these cases, general anesthesia may be required.

Complications from dental extractions are rare, however they may include:

  • Accidental damage to surrounding teeth,
  • Dry socket or exposure of bone in the tooth socket,
  • Fractured jaw
  • Infection
  • Soreness in the jaw

In a 2012 case out of White Plains, New York, a dentist was ordered to pay a former patient $9.8 million after botching a wisdom tooth extraction.  In February of 2007, the dentist, William Moody, performed a tooth extraction to remove Harold Hagins’ last wisdom tooth.  However, Moody left some of the wisdom tooth inside Hagins’ mouth.  A subsequent oral surgery performed elsewhere did not fix the problem.  As a result, Hagins suffered “extensive oral nerve damage, chronic pain, a fractured jaw, memory loss, migraines, permanent loss of taste, fear, anxiety, and depression.”

Hagins sued Moody, and another dentist, Michael Miller.  After a six week trial, the jury found that both Moody and Miller were liable for Hagins’ injuries, and that neither of the dental professionals had obtained Hagins’ informed consent to perform the procedures.

Hagins first went to Moody’s office complaining of a toothache.  Two days later Hagins returned to have the wisdom tooth removed and left the dentist’s office believing that Moody had completely extracted the wisdom tooth.  However, Moody had not removed the whole tooth, and testified that he had stopped the extraction after he was told that the tooth was fused to the bone.  Hagins later admitted himself to a hospital emergency room due to severe pain and facial swelling.  He later had an oral surgeon extract the remaining parts of the tooth.

After that surgery there were months of pain and hospital visits.  Hagins continued to experience facial swelling and an inability to open his mouth.  He also lost feeling to the left side of his tongue, experienced shooting pains, and difficultly eating.  He underwent another surgery.  Some of his pain wasn’t alleviated until brain surgery was performed in July of 2007.

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