Gerald S. Fine, D.D.S.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Last month, a general dentist called our office asking me to see his patient who was "in his chair". The dentist had attempted to extract a badly decayed tooth and it had fractured. After trying for two hours to remove the tooth, the frustrated dentist referred his patient to our office to complete the tooth removal. When the patient arrived at our office, she was very upset. "Why didn't he stop if he couldn't get the tooth out? Why didn't he send me to you sooner?" she kept asking. Although I tried to explain that her dentist believed he could successfully remove the tooth and didn't want to inconvenience her by referring her to a specialist, she was not placated. A few days later she called my office seeking copies of her dental records. She told me she was planning on suing her dentist because she was still in pain and because he,"obviously didn't know what he was doing" since he couldn't get her tooth out. I assured her that her discomfort would resolve in a few more days and that there was no malpractice involved. Her dentist was only trying to help her and the tooth removal was more difficult than he anticipated. Her ending words to me were that she was still going to speak with a lawyer because her dentist never said to her, "I'm Sorry".
Patients with poor outcomes from oral surgical procedures are more likely to file a lawsuit against their dentist than patients who are dissatisfied with other dental procedures.
Factors which encourage lawsuits include: Inferred lack of caring by the dentist as well as an abundance of lawyers who will take such cases...
Who does NOT Sue? -- Patients less likely to sue feel their dentist possesses competence, compassion and, caring. These qualities prompt the patient to the give their dentist the benefit of the doubt.
A legitimate malpractice action contains these essential points: there was a duty owed to the patient which was breached; the patient suffered harm/ or loss directly caused by this breach of care; and the duty of care provided failed to meet the expected standard of care of the community.
There was NO NEGLIGENCE performed by the general dentist. The referral of his patient to our office sooner might have been appropriate, but MOST IMPORTANTLY, telling his patient that he was SORRY that she was uncomfortable might have reduced both her anger towards her dentist as well as her seeking the services of an attorney.
Gerald S. Fine, D.D.S.
Practice limited to oral & maxillofacial surgery