Country singer Leann Rimes is making the news for something other than her vocal talents or her burgeoning acting career lately: the dental malpractice claim she has brought against her long-time dentist. The starlet alleges that her dental provider, over the course of three long years of treatment, has damaged her mouth to the point of needing multiple root canals, bone grafting, painkillers, a temporary dental bridge, physical therapy and follow-up care for her TMJ syndrome (a dental condition that causes clicking or popping of the jaw and pain along the jaw). She also alleges that she is unable to perform her job (singing) because of the pain and disfigurement of her jaw
While medical malpractice cases are widely known and often involve multiple victims (as in the case of the recent cases involving defective birth control medications, transvaginal mesh products and hip implants), dental malpractice cases are much less common.
It is not only that there are smaller sums of money available in dental malpractice cases – according to estimates by the American Dental Association, the average successful claim results in an award of about $10,000 – it is also that many people aren’t even aware they have to right to file complaints about their dental providers. Some states maintain a registry of complaints against health care providers, but similar information is much more difficult to find about dentists, hygienists, orthodontists and oral surgeons.
Why is dental malpractice in the “shadows?”
Oftentimes patients who have suffered adverse effects because of the action or inaction of a dental care provider don’t know that their symptoms are unusual; some people assume that all dental procedures will come with a degree of pain regardless of the invasiveness, and will not seek follow-up care for that reason. Others may just visit another dentist for any aftercare, not even telling the original provider that there was a problem in the first place.
There are also those who feel that they have contributed to their own pain and difficulty because they put off treatment due to – ironically enough – a fear of going to the dentist.
Regardless of the reasons why dental malpractice happened, or the contributing factors that combined to make an individual patient’s experience a hellish one, it is time to move dental malpractice out of the shadows and into the light. If you or a loved one is dealing with the effects of a dental care provider’s mistake, negligence or recklessness, you have rights. File a complaint with your state’s dental licensing board, speak up to the dentist/provider in question and considering speaking with an experienced malpractice attorney in your area to learn more about legal options you may have to hold responsible parties accountable for the harm you have suffered.