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Can You Sue an Orthodontist for Medical Malpractice?

Published on February 12, 2023

An orthodontist specializes in misaligned bite positions, mal-positioned teeth, and jaw irregularities. The most common procedures orthodontists perform are applying braces to the teeth and tightening them over time to reposition them in the mouth. Not only does proper orthodontic treatment improve appearance by straightening the teeth, but it can also make chewing, eating, biting, flossing, and speaking easier.

In most cases, orthodontic treatment is highly effective and improves the quality of life for many patients, but what if something goes wrong because an orthodontist fails to correctly identify and treat a problem according to the accepted medical standards? Can you sue an orthodontist for medical malpractice like you can with a medical doctor? 

The answer is yes. Like other medical professionals, an orthodontist can make bad decisions, execute a procedure poorly, or become negligent in a patient’s care leading to a medical malpractice case.

What is Medical Malpractice in Orthodontia?

All practicing orthodontists must meet the accepted standards of care while providing treatment. While you’re unlikely to have a successful lawsuit if you sue simply because you aren’t satisfied with the results of your treatment, you can gain compensation for damages if your orthodontist committed a provable act of negligence in failing to identify a problem and address it according to the accepted medical standards, or the way another reasonable orthodontist would have treated it in similar circumstances.

Proving Liability in Orthodontist Malpractice Cases

Once a doctor/patient relationship becomes established between any medical professional — including an orthodontist — then that professional owes the patient a duty of care to treat the them to the highest accepted medical standards. Proving liability means showing the following:

  • That the orthodontist owed the patient a duty of care
  • That they breached their duty of care by committing negligence
  • That the patient suffered an injury because of that breach
  • That the patient experienced economic and non-economic damages due to the injury

If your case meets the above criteria for medical malpractice, then you have a strong case for compensation for your damages.

Examples of Malpractice in Orthodontia Cases

Orthodontists perform the installation of medical devices to straighten misaligned teeth and then provide periodic checks, adjustments, and maintenance until the treatment ends. Then the orthodontist removes the device. If negligence occurs during any stage of this course of treatment and the negligence causes harm, you could recover damages through a malpractice claim. Some examples of claims against orthodontists include:

  • Incorrectly applied braces that damage the teeth or mouth or cause jaw problems
  • Incorrectly applied Invisalign appliances that damage the teeth, mouth, or jaw
  • Causing or failing to identify and treat an infection
  • Unnecessary tooth extraction
  • Extracting the wrong tooth
  • Improper instrumentation causing injury
  • Performing unnecessary procedures
  • Causing or failing to diagnose and treat root resorption 
  • Leaving braces in place too long and causing over-correction
  • Other problems from incorrectly performed procedures for aligning teeth, correcting bite problems, or addressing jaw problems

Should I Sue My Orthodontist?

Suing an orthodontist for malpractice takes an experienced attorney because this type of malpractice can be challenging to prove. Some orthodontists also require patients to sign waivers before treatment which can limit your right to file a lawsuit. If you think you or a family member have been the victim of medical malpractice during orthodontic treatment, a Phoenix medical malpractice attorney with a strong track record with this type of case can help you gain compensation for damages such as the expenses for correcting the dental problem, pain and suffering, and disfigurement.

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