Doctors And Dentists Misdiagonsis Oral Lesion Often; Medical Malpractice?

Dental Malpractice, Medical Malpractice Mistakes

According to researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, general practitioners correctly diagnosed only about half of all oral lesions they biopsied. The study also found that dentists and oral surgeons were only slightly better at it. More specifically, general practitioners misdiagnosed 45.9% of the oral lesions they submitted, whereas the dentists and oral surgeons misdiagnosed the oral lesions 42.8% of the time.

The conditions misdiagnosed were hyperkeratosis (thickening of skin; 16% of the time), focal inflammatory fibrous hyperplasia (firm growth or bump, 10%), fibroma (growth of fibrous or connective tissue, 8%), periapical granuloma (growing mass around tooth which could kill the tooth “pulp,” 7% of the time), and radicular cysts (cyst around tooth that causes pain, 6% of the time). While these conditions are generally benign, malignant lesions were misdiagnosed 5.6% of the time. But what is the significance?

The study’s authors noted that “[t]he relatively high rate of clinical misdiagnosis of oral lesions biopsied and submitted for histologic diagnosis by dental practitioners suggests that there is probably an even greater rate of error occurring in clinical practice.” If this allegation is true, it is quite scary! Particularly because most of the lesions, while not malignant, are certainly common. Why should the most common conditions be the most diagnosed?

This study suggests that if a doctor is not sure, they should biopsy the lesion. In fact, even if they are sure the doctor should biopsy it. However, patients are afraid of that word “biopsy,” as it generally connotes cancer or another serious condition. With dentists specifically, most often biopsies are not covered by insurance and the patient has to pay for it out of pocket. Moreover, doctors generally fail to well-enough explain to patients why a biopsy needs to be done.

Shouldn’t these doctors-specifically dentists who should be specializing in oral lesions-be more liable? Aren’t we as patients more deserving of a better standard of care by such physicians? Absolutely! There needs to be more controls, more studies such as this one, and more repercussions against doctors who misdiagnose these conditions. Even if the lesions are benign, more than 5% of that time a malignant lesion is misdiagnosed and that could seriously alter a patient’s life! Doctors should be liable now, because that scenario arises!