How Other Experts Might Factor into Dental Malpractice Cases
Dental malpractice suits are rarely simple, and liability doesn’t always clearly belong to a single party. As a dental expert witness, I’m already a focused doctor and active clinician — but sometimes, it’s still useful to supplement my knowledge.
For example, if I’m treating a patient’s oral cavity, my knowledge of the sinuses, pharynx and adjacent tissues should be sufficient to deal with most issues— but in specific cases, it might be useful to seek the advice of a colleague— such as an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
The same principle applies when providing expert witness testimony during a malpractice suit. The following examples are all cases where a dental expert witness might call upon one of the other specialists listed in the section above for additional information:
Adverse Reactions to Materials
Some patients are hypersensitive to the materials used in dental restorations (which might include porcelain, titanium, precious metal, acrylic resin and others). A patient who suffers a dermatological, mucosal, or systemic reaction (such as a full-body allergic reaction) during their treatment or following the placement of a dental restoration might consider filing a malpractice suit as a result.
In such a case, a dental expert witness would likely attempt to pinpoint what kind
of reaction the patient suffered and its causation, so as to determine whether potential liability lay with the dentist performing the treatment or with the company responsible for providing the materials. Dermatologists, materials experts, immunologists, metallurgists, and pharmacologists could all provide useful information.
Adverse Reactions to Medication
Some patients file malpractice suits after reacting adversely to medication that has been prescribed to them. In cases where their side effects have been properly documented and published by the pharmaceutical company producing the medication, it’s likely that liability would lie with the dentist—however, that isn’t always the case.
In malpractice cases involving a side effect that has not
been previously published, a pharmacologist might be required to provide an opinion. This could help determine whether the pharmaceutical company bears responsibility for the reaction as well as (or instead of) the dentist.
Adverse Reactions to Sedatives & Anesthesia
Dentists administer anesthesia routinely and regularly, especially for patients who have anxiety or a low tolerance for pain. However, a dentist should always utilize and deliver anesthetic agents whose usage is within the levels of their education, training and experience and for which they are prepared to assess and manage potential complications or reactions. There is no margin or error allowable here.
Imagine a case where a dentist gives a patient valium for sedation or an antibiotic like penicillin to address infection without being experienced in their administration, and the patient suffers an adverse drug reaction? In such cases, a dental expert witness might seek out an anesthesiologist, infectious disease specialist or pharmacologist to help determine whether malpractice occurred.
X-ray technology, nowadays often digitized and three dimensional, isn’t magic—it needs to be installed, operated and analyzed properly in order to function well. If it isn’t, it may not always detect certain pathologies, which can contribute to poor diagnosis and treatment that constitute departures from the standard of care, and possibly grounds for a malpractice suit.
In these cases, an engineer or a radiologist might have information that could help a dental expert witness provide an opinion on who bears liability. Did the dentist make a mistake that prevented them from analyzing the X-rays correctly—or was digitalization of the X-ray not properly done through the software, in which case it might be the manufacturer’s responsibility instead?
Endodontic instruments are thin files used to cleanse the insides of a patient’s tooth during root canal procedures. These instruments used to be handheld, but modern endodontic armamentarium is often attached to handpieces that vibrate or rotate during use to provide greater functionality.
If one of these instruments were to come loose and/or break off inside a patient’s tooth, it could prove problematic clinically. In a resulting malpractice suit, the dental expert witness might have to determine whether the dentist’s technique or a manufacturing error was responsible for the breakage of the device. Seeking out a materials expert, metallurgist or endodontist could be extremely useful in this scenario.
Building a Network of Experts
Dental expert witnesses are often some of the most important figures in malpractice suits. Our testimony can help protect patients and
practitioners by providing informed opinions on a case’s most vital details—but sometimes, we need additional details from various specialists in related fields.
Connecting with other medical expert witnesses helps us create a community focused on objectivity, accuracy and truth. If you need the services of an experienced dental expert witness, please reach out to me and get in touch
so that we can discuss how I can help.