Tags Posts tagged with "lawsuits"


Dental Patient Rights
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I got an email yesterday from a reader named Harris, who stated, “I paid $5000 to replace a broken crown. The dentist did not tell me what the cost would be until he had already started the procedure.”

Harris wanted to know what kind of rights he had as a dental patient when you’re not told the cost of dental treatment in advance.  I told Harris that it is generally accepted that a dental patient has a right to know an estimate of the cost of a procedure before treatment begins.

I’ve received many other questions about dental patient rights in the past, and I thought that it would be a good time to discuss the rights of a dental patient. I have listed below what I believe to be 20 core rights that every dental patient deserves, and I’ll probably use something similar to this as the patient bill of rights in my future dental practice.

Dental Patient Rights

Dental Patient RightsKeep in mind that these are not legally-binding rights, although they are good recommendations for a dentist to establish a positive, successful relationship with his or her patients.

I have provided links to many other dental patient bill of rights at the end of the article if you want to take a deeper look into the world of dental patient rights.

The Right to Choose Your Dentist

You have a right to choose your own dentist.  Many dentists have different philosophies regarding the best treatment and you have the right to choose the dentist with whom you feel most comfortable.

The Right to Quality Dental Treatment

You have a right to receive treatment that meets or exceeds the accepted dental standard of care.

The Right to Know the Education and Training of the Dental Team

You have a right to know about the education and qualifications of the entire dental team, including the dentist, dental hygienist, assistants, and staff.  Many dental practices that believe in lots of continuing education post this information on their practice website.

Most states require that a dentist complete 15-25 continuing education “credits” every year.  You can ask your dentist how many he or she has taken.  Some dentists get by on the minimum, and other dentists take more courses than required.

The Right to a Clean Treatment Environment

The dental team should be using appropriate infection-control and sterilization techniques.

Learn how to tell if your dentist has a good infection control program.

The Right to Confidential Treatment

You have the right to expect that no member of the dental team will discuss your treatment with anyone else unless you authorize it.  This is a right granted under the HIPAA privacy rule.

The Right to Know the Cost of Treatment

You have the right to know how much treatment will cost before treatment begins.  Sometimes we don’t know what we’ll find before we start working on a patient, so it can be difficult to give an exact fee.

If this is the case, the dentist should be able to provide you with an estimate of the fee based on the various outcomes and treatment options.

Curious about dental fees?  Find the average dental fee in your area.

The Right to Know Why You Need Treatment

You have the right to know why treatment is necessary for your particular condition.

The Right to Know Treatment Risks

You have the right to know what risks are associated with treatment as well as the risks of not proceeding with treatment.

The Right to Know Treatment Alternatives

There’s more than one way to skin a cat — You have a right to know what other treatments are available that would also solve your dental problem as well as knowing how long the various treatment alternatives will last.

The Right to Decline Treatment

You have the right to decline treatment if you so desire.  You also have a right to know what may occur if you choose not to accept the treatment that your dentist proposes.

The Right to Know Expected Treatment Results

You have the right to know what the expected outcome of your treatment will be.

The Right to Emergency Dental Treatment

You have the right to receive emergency treatment from your dentist within a reasonable time-frame.  Many dentists set aside a certain amount of time each day to see emergencies.

The Right to Be Treated Respectfully

The dental team should treat you respectfully and considerately.

The Right to Not Be Discriminated Against

You have the right to not be discriminated against.  You should receive quality treatment no matter your ethnicity, sex, religion, disability, or age.

The Right to See the Dentist at Every Visit

You have a right to see the dentist every time you receive dental treatment.  Different states have varying laws regarding this, and thus you can clarify this with your dental office if you wish to see the dentist at every visit.

The Right to Know How to Resolve Disputes

You have the right to know what actions you can take to resolve any disputes that might arise between you and your dentist.  There are many ways to resolve disputes with your dentist.

Dental peer review is one of these means — here’s what it takes to win a lawsuit against your dentist.

The Right to Timely Dental Treatment

If a dentist accepts you as a patient, you have a right to expect that you can make appointments in a timely manner and not have to wait many months before receiving treatment.

Keep in mind that sometimes this is beyond the dentist’s control.  For example, if you require IV sedation or anesthesia in a hospital setting, it may take a long time to schedule your appointment so that you can have all of the health professionals available to provide you with safe, effective treatment.

The Right to a Conversation With Your Dental Team Regarding Your Treatment

You have a right to receive answers to any questions that you may have regarding your current oral health status and your proposed treatment.

You also have the right to discuss any concerns you may have regarding the proposed treatment.

The Right to Your Dental Records

You have the right to have your dental records and x-rays transferred to another dentist of your choice either for free or for a nominal fee.

Learn more about how to get a copy of your dental records.

The Right to Reasonable Accommodations for Your Disability

If you have a disability, you have a right to expect your dentist to make reasonable accommodations.  For example, I have treated patients in their wheel chair when they are unable to move themselves into our clinical dental chairs.

Dental Patient Rights Available Online

There are a number of dental patient bill of rights available online.  My dental school and the ADA have made copies of their dental patient bill of rights available on the internet.  Here’s a few:

It’s interesting to note how Boston University’s dental patient rights differs from the other schools’ since they are a private university and appear to be more selective at accepting patients.

Questions About Dental Patient Rights?

Do you have any questions regarding your rights as a dental patient?  Leave them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Thanks for reading!

Dental Malpractice Lawsuit
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A few months ago, a dental malpractice insurance company came to my dental school and shared many different dental malpractice cases with us.

Winning a Lawsuit Against Your DentistOne that stuck out to me was of a young woman who went to the dentist to have a routine procedure performed.  After she left the dentist’s office, her tongue was permanently numb.  The dentist felt really bad that she could no longer feel anything with her tongue and offered her $10,000.  She refused the money the dentist offered her and decided to sue the dentist for somewhere in the neighborhood of half a million dollars.  She lost.

Why did she lose?  Did the malpractice insurance company simply have extraordinary lawyers?  No, the reason she lost was because she lacked one of the four necessary ingredients to winning a dental malpractice lawsuit.  I’ll now explain what those four requirements are and then I’ll explain what went wrong in this young woman’s lawsuit.

Below is an interesting paragraph that explains what those four magic elements are that you must have in order to win a malpractice lawsuit against your dentist:

In most malpractice cases the patient must prove all of the following four elements of a malpractice claim: (1) – the existence of a duty, usually implied by the doctor-patient relationship; (2) – a breach of the duty — in malpractice, a breach of the standard of care; (3) damages — in nonlegal terms, an injury; and (4) causation, a causal connection between the failure to meet the standard of care and the injury alleged.

The initial burden of proving malpractice lies with the plaintiff (patient).  The patient must prove by a preponderance of the evidence all four elements of the claim.

Source: Contemporary Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery by James R. Hupp

If you didn’t understand all of that, don’t worry – I’m going to list out the requirements below and talk about each one of them.  After researching the topic of malpractice lawsuits, I found that these are the four standard elements you need in order to mount a successful lawsuit against your dentist.

The Four Necessary Ingredients to Successfully Sue Your Dentist

1. The Existence of a Duty – First, you have to prove that your dentist has a duty to care for you.  This is implied by the dentist-patient relationship.  All you need to show this is documentation that the dentist was actually treating you as a dentist.  This can be easily proven.

2. A Breach of the Standard of Care – Next, you have to prove that your dentist violated the standard of care.  The standard of care is roughly defined as what is clinically acceptable and recommended given the circumstances.

For example, if your dentist was performing a lingual frenectomy and cut back way too far, damaging a nerve in your tongue, then that would be a violation of the standard of care.  The standard of care when performing a lingual frenectomy would be to simply remove that portion of the frenum that is causing a person to be tongue-tied.  If a dentist continues cutting into the tongue, then that would be a violation of the standard of care.

3. The Dentist Injured You – Next, you must show that the dentist injured you.  This shouldn’t be too hard since the reason most people decide to sue their dentist is because of an injury.

4. Proof that The Violation of the Standard of Care Caused the Injury – You need to be able to prove that your injury occurred because of the dentist’s negligence.  For example, let’s say that a guy named Rufus goes to see Dr. Smiley.  Rufus hardly ever brushes and has lots of cavities, so he goes to get a few of them filled from Dr. Smiley.  While the dentist is drilling, she accidentally hits Rufus’ gums with the drill.  A few years later, Rufus has developed gum recession around all of his teeth.

In order to win a lawsuit claiming that Dr. Smiley caused his gum recession, Rufus would have to prove that it was the dentist’s mistake with the drill that caused the gum recession rather than his own poor oral hygiene – a case that would be hard to prove.

You need to be able to directly link your injury with the dentist’s violation of the standard of care.

You Can Lose a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit Even When You’ve Been Injured

You may find it hard to believe, but you can lose a dental malpractice lawsuit when the dentist has harmed you and the dentist can even admit to harming you!  It has to do with the second requirement above about proving a breach of the standard of care.  This is why the young woman in my opening story lost her lawsuit.  Even though the dentist had caused her tongue to be numb, he did what any other dentist would have done under the same circumstances.  The problem was that the young woman’s nerve was located in an abnormal spot.  It wasn’t the dentist’s fault that her nerve wasn’t where most people’s nerves are, it was simply a tragic event that occurred without anyone to blame.

Even if your dentist has caused harm, you need to make sure the your dentist has violated the standard of care before you file your lawsuit.  If your dentist was simply following normal procedure, you probably will have the cards stacked against you when you go to present your case at the courthouse.


It might be surprising to see an article written by a future dentist about how to win a lawsuit against your dentist.  However, I believe in justice.  If a patient has been harmed by a dental professional and it is the dentist’s fault, then the patient should be compensated in some way.  That doesn’t mean I’m a fan of frivolous lawsuits, but I do believe that certain lawsuits can help make the world a better place by revoking the license of those dentists who are truly negligent and harmful to their patients.

Teeth Whitening Scam Lawsuit
Teeth Whitening Scams: Their Advertisements
I found this block of ads today while browsing a popular news site. While I can’t speak for the nice mortgage rates, the top two ads both link to teeth whitening scam sites.

You’ve probably seen their advertisements online.  If not, I put some examples to the left.

They all go by different names, like Everbrite, Celebrity Smile, Celebrity White Smile, Dentasmile MD, Idol White, Clean Whites, and many more.  However, they have one thing in common.  They lure the customer in with a “Free Teeth Whitening Trial.”  Once you order, they start charging sometimes hundreds of dollars per month to keep sending you out a small supply of teeth whitening gel each month.

Fortunately, there is now a lawsuit against one of these companies known as Clean Whites.  If you take a look at the Clean Whites website, you will see that they are no longer accepting new orders, but they do say that they are continuing to “serve” their existing customers.  By “serve”, I assume they mean “charge their credit cards.”

If you don’t know how these companies work, I wrote about them a few weeks ago in an article called Yes, the $3 Online Teeth Whitening Offer Is a Scam.

What the Teeth Whitening Scam Lawsuit Means

Hopefully, with the filing of this lawsuit by the Florida Attorney General in the Broward County Circuit Court, there will be more publicity surrounding all of these similar teeth whitening scams.

The Florida Attorney General is asking for restitution to the Clean Whites customers that were ripped off.  Also included in the lawsuit is an injunction that will prohibit the owners of Clean Whites from starting similar companies to take advantage of people who simply want a good deal on teeth whitening products.

The Miami Herald states:

Complaints accuse owners…of billing customers’ cards up to $90 a month, similar to the results of a state investigation of the company. The suit accuses the pair of using misleading advertising and deceptive trade practices, among other issues.

You may also wish to view a similar article from South Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper.

Hopefully this lawsuit will succeed and we will see a reduction in these teeth whitening companies.

Of course, a successful lawsuit won’t mean the end of all scams, but it will hopefully make a difference in the lives of a few people who otherwise would have been conned into signing up for an unwanted monthly subscription to a teeth whitening service.

Is it Really a Scam?

My original article on these scams got a comment recently that made me think about this issue.  Here’s what Grant said:

Why do you call these sites a scam? People have eyes, they can read the screen. They know what they are buying. If they are dumb enough to think that the companies will just give away their product without making any money then they deserve what’s coming to them. Just a thought.

In my opinion, it is a scam.  A scam is when people intentionally being ripped off.  People who bought into the free trial of teeth whitening products simply wanted a good deal.  After all, that’s what the advertisements promised.  I’m sure nobody wanted to be billed a few hundred dollars for a “subscription activation” fee and hundreds of dollars a month to receive teeth whitening products.

In order to show that this is a scam, let’s compare this service with another service, cell phones.  Let’s say someone walks by a cell phone kiosk in a mall and wants to get a new phone.  They see an enticing advertisement that offers a “free” telephone with a two year service agreement.  This makes sense to the customer because they know that in order to give away the phone, the cell phone company has to make up their loss in the form of subscription fees.  It also costs them to provide mobile phone service to the customer.

The customer is satisfied paying a monthly fee because they know they are getting something of value each month.  The cell phone companies even make this monthly fee very clear by forcing the customer to choose a monthly plan and compare and contrast the different plans.

However, with this teeth whitening scam, the companies deceive the customer by acting like they are simply giving away the teeth whitening gel and pretending to only need credit card information to pay for shipping and handling.  In fine print, they do mention that they will be charging the customer hundreds of dollars each month.  This is where the scam begins.  Unlike the cell phone company, the teeth whitening companies are not offering a value to their customers.  They are charging many times more than what the product is worth, hoping to snare a few customers into their trap.

Comparing Teeth Whitening Scams to a Subscription Fruit Model

How would you feel if you went to the grocery store to buy a peach.  You pay with your credit card and sign the slip.  You failed to notice that on the credit card slip, you were signing up to an peach subscription agreement.  The agreement states that everyday for the next month, a peach will get delivered to your mailbox.  The grocery store charges you $19.95 per delivery.  Before you know it, you’ve racked up a $600 bill in a month’s time.

That grocery store would most likely face lawsuits and go out of business for their deceptive business practices.

This is exactly how these teeth whitening scams operate, and I think it’s unethical.  Do you?

Peer Review Dentistry

Have you ever had a major inconvenience that was caused by your dentist?  Sometimes dentists do make serious mistakes.  When they do, they should be open and honest with their patients.  However, not all dentists do tell their patients when they mess up.

United States Supreme CourtWhile most dentists are pretty reasonable if you take the time to talk to them about it, some are not.  Certain dentists not only think that they are perfect and never make mistakes, but they also think that they are always right.

It is those kinds of dentists that many people may feel the urge to take legal action so that they can make the dentist pay for the wrong that was committed.

Legal Action Can Be Complicated

Many times, however, legal action is too time-consuming and money-consuming to warrant taking any legal action.  For example, on the Free Advice forums, a woman told the story of how a dentist may have drilled too close to the pulp tissue in her daughter’s tooth.  Her daughter subsequently needed a root canal treatment and a crown.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t share all of the details of her story, but you have to wonder whether or not she tried to get the dentist to give her a free root canal treatment with a crown.

Before attempting to bring legal action against a dentist, it is important to ask yourself if the dentist was truly careless and negligent or if the dentist simply didn’t fulfill your expectations.

If you believe that the dentist truly was negligent, then you have two options:

  1. You can bring legal action toward the dentist (arbitration, lawsuits, etc.)
  2. You can go through peer review.

It would be nearly pointless to sue the dentist over a procedure that would only cost $1500 as the legal fees could end up being more than that.  This is where peer review can come in handy.

What is Peer Review?

Jerry Taintor, in his book The Complete Guide to Better Dental Care, defines dental peer review as follows:

A review of a case by a special committee of volunteer dentists from the local dental society, usually at a patient’s request.  The purpose of the review is to resolve disputes between a dentist and a patient regarding the quality and/or appropriateness of the dental care provided.

Peer review is a simple process that allows patients a quick, simple, free way to discover whether or not negligence occurred by having experienced volunteer dentists review their case.  The dentists that serve on the peer review board will examine the patient’s file that the dentist has on record as well as any x-rays.  They may even wish to examine the patient to get a better idea of what exactly what happened during the course of dental treatment.

How to Get Started with Peer Review

If you are interested in peer review, you will need to get in contact with your local dental society.  Every U.S. state and territory has a dental society.  You can find a list of the dental societies as well as their websites and contact information at this page of dental societies on the American Dental Association’s website.

What Dentists Have to Say About the Peer Review Process

A North Carolina prosthodontist (a specialist in crowns, bridges, dentures, and other types of prosthetic teeth) had the following to say about the peer review process:

As a peer reviewer, I have seen colleagues who have truly committed malpractice however they are unwilling to admit their errors to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict with their patient. They would rather force the patient into litigation on the chance that the patient would not have the financial means to sue them. What ever happened to ‘do no harm’ and keeping the best interest of the patient in site?

Interestingly enough, it seems that most of the dental professionals that are unhappy with the peer review process are general dentists that may not be too experienced.  A general dentist that practices in Nevada even gave the following unprofessional and immature statement about the dental professionals that voluntarily serve on peer review boards:

The weenies that are anal enough to be on most peer review committees are so frightened to confront the combative patient that they typically ALWAYS side with the patient no matter how ridiculous the situation.

Of course peer review does have its disadvantages.  There may be potential conflicts of interest if the patient or dentist is a friend of one of the dentists serving on the peer review board.  However, as one endodontist stated, peer review is far better than getting involved in our complex judicial system.

Transparency is the Best Policy

I have read about many dental malpractice lawsuits and wrongdoings.  I think that this has been very beneficial to me as a dental student and a future dentist.

In two years, when I become a dentist, I will strive to fully explain each procedure to my patients as well as the risks and benefits associated with each treatment option.  If I make a mistake, I will make it right.  I believe that having satisfied patients contributes to the success of a dentist more than anything else.

I believe that if health professionals were to communicate better with their patients and develop a relationship of trust and understanding, that we would see a dramatic decline in the number of health-related lawsuits.

What Do You Think?

Do you wish your dentist was more up-front about a certain procedure?  Have you been involved in peer review or a lawsuit?

Please leave any comments you may have below!