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  1. #1

    Default Dental Abscess After Failed Filling

    My question involves medical malpractice in the state of: California

    I had an amalgam filling done and the dentist said that she had a very hard time getting access to it (tooth #18), and that there was decay below the gum line and that it was cracked very deeply. An hour after I left the dentist office, a piece of the filling on that tooth broke off. I called them up, and they told me to come in the next day. When I came in the next day, the dentist was not there, and a just hygenist looked at it - not the dentist herself.

    The hygenist admitted that the broken filling was their fault because it was not packed correctly, and then she ground part of the tooth away with a drill. They gave me another appointment for 3 weeks later, but after a week I was in a lot of pain, so I went back.

    The dentist reversed the charges, referred me to a specialist, whom I can't see for 3 more weeks. Now I have an abcess (a periodontal infection), and I'm in a lot of pain. (I know it is an abcess because of the constant foul smell and taste in my mouth)

    I have county health insurance and the dental work was authorized and done by a county-contracted dental provider.

    PLUS - The pulp of that tooth is exposed from the broken filling, and it REALLY hurts!

    The original dentist said the filling needed to be redone, and/or a crown and root canal is needed, so they referred me to a specialist. I asked the specialist's secretary (the one scheduling appointments) if they can see me sooner and no such luck. She told me "You could always go to the nearest emergency room in the mean time, if it bothers you that much."

    I am worried. I have read about people dying from tooth abcesses and this whole experience is scaring the crap out of me. Not to mention, I am unemployed and I have missed several job interviews and have not been able to look for work these last 3 weeks due to the amount of pain I am in, and having to go back and forth to umpteen dental office visits.

    I am also quite upset at the lack of professionalism of the first dentist, who had one of her hygenists, instead of herself, look at my tooth after the filling broke, who took a drill to it (no anesthetic) and then tried to put me off for 3 more weeks. That is all she did. No temporay fillings, no nothing!

    I am also mad at the insensitive secretary at the specialist's office who told me that I need to have an exam first (It's just their "procedure" she explained), and she couldn't 'schedule me in' for another 3 weeks - despite me telling her how much pain I am in now, and that I had an exposed tooth in my mouth. She then proceeded to tell me that no work will be done for another 3 weeks after that (now were talking 6 weeks total) because they have to wait for authorization from my insurance.

    Haven't they ever heard of an "emergency visit"...? Geeez! ... I CAN'T WAIT 6 WEEKS! (BTW, I have already had a toothache on that tooth for 3 months prior to any work being done because I had to wait for them to schedule me in, and for my insurance to approve everything!)

    My questions:
    I just would like to know if I have any rights to sue for negligence and/or malpractice at this point.

    If so, would it be worth it, or cost me more money than I would receive?

    Should I contact an attorney immediately?

    Thanks for your answers.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Do I Have a Case for Dental Malpractice?

    Given that you haven't actually seen the specialist yet, you're getting a little ahead of yourself here.

    See the specialist. Get the treatment you need.

    THEN - and only then - start thinking about malpractice.
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Dental Abscess After Failed Filling

    Often in cases like this the dentist will approach you with a variety of options, from extraction with an eventual bridge or implant, cap or crown to "this probably won't work, but we can try a filling." It sounds to me like your tooth was probably past the point at which a filling would be adequate, save perhaps as a temporary measure pending a more permanent solution, but that would have been by far the cheapest, fastest thing to attempt. What options were offered to you and why did you choose the filling over those other options?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Dental Abscess After Failed Filling

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    View Post
    Often in cases like this the dentist will approach you with a variety of options, from extraction with an eventual bridge or implant, cap or crown to "this probably won't work, but we can try a filling." It sounds to me like your tooth was probably past the point at which a filling would be adequate, save perhaps as a temporary measure pending a more permanent solution, but that would have been by far the cheapest, fastest thing to attempt. What options were offered to you and why did you choose the filling over those other options?
    The dentist did say that the tooth would eventually need a crown and possibly a root canal. However, no choice was given to me other than the filling because the assistant at the front desk of her office told me that my insurance would only cover fillings and anything else would have to be paid out of my pocket 100% ... even a cleaning. Becuase I am unemployed and short on cash (my house is also in foreclosure and I declared BK as well), I went with the fillings.

    So I contacted my insurance and asked them why I was told nothing but a filling was covered, and they told me any services necessary up to $1,000 were authorized and if additional authorization was needed the dental office was supposed to notify them for approval. This was not done, despite me telling the front desk lady that $1,000 was already pre-authorized. So basically the front desk lady at the dental office told me wrong, and refused to contact my insurance to verify.

    So, when my insurance called her to ask what was going on, immediately, the dentist refused to do any more work on me, refunded my money for the filling, and referred me to the specialist. She basically "hung me out to dry" with an exposed and infected tooth in my mouth, and washed her hands of me. I was told that I will not be seen at their office anymore for anything, and if need be, I am to go to the nearest emergency room.

    This was how it went down.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Dental Abscess After Failed Filling

    If you don't bother to learn what benefits you have under your dental insurance, and don't convey the details of your coverage to your dentist, it's not realistic to expect that your dentist is going to know. Policies, even those issued by a singe insurance company, can be very different.

    You chose a filling because you didn't want to pay for a crown. You've received a refund. From what you have stated you needed a crown then, you need a crown now, and the difference is that you now know your insurance coverage and will likely get the crown from a better dentist. You may need to take antibiotics first, sure, but you might have had to do so as a prophylactic measure anyway. So other than being angry and suffering, in the greater scheme of life, some inconvenience, what do you imagine your damages to be?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Dental Abscess After Failed Filling

    I did convey the benefits to them before any work was done. The front desk lady chose not to listen to me. The dentist said that a filling would last me 6 months to a year. When my insurance called them to ask why they did not do a crown (or even offer one) to me, the dentist turned me away and refused to perform any more work.

    Now, that's all fine and dandy. She has every right to do so. BUT, because of her shoddy work (remember the filling broke becuase it wasn't packed right) I now have a serious infection that I did not have before. All I had before was a mild toothache - sensitive to hoit and cold - that was it. Now I have a full-blown abcess, not so much because of the work she did, but because thhe lack of work.

    On top of that, if she was going to refer somebody in my condition, she should have at least made sure that they could take me in immediately so that this infection would not have gotten out of hand.

    what is it worth to me?
    The cost that it is going to take to fix it, and I would have preferred the crown and root canal like my dental plan authorized them to do. Now, it may very well be beyond that, and I'm lucky if I don't wind up in the hospital, IMHO. So whatever this costs me.

    I'm not out for compensation for any pain and suffering. But I would like them to pay my bill for this matter becuase this never should have happened.

    The MAIN issue here is:
    The filling broke because the dentist DID NOT EvEN FINISH PACKING IT! She was off working on another patient, and then she left for the day - without even looking at my tooth.

    Her hygenist finished packing it, and she called the front desk clerk to help her. That was when it broke and they said "It broke off" to each other when I was still in the chair. They didn't say anything else to me, so I assumed everything was OK, and I paid and left. But an hour after I got home, a large chunk of the filling broke off in my mouth, and I was spitting pieces of it all night + blood. The pulp of the tooth was totally exposed.

    I am going outside of the plan and the 'specialist' at this point, and I am going to my regular dentist. They will get me in tomorrow or the next day and I am just going to have the tooth pulled. I will have to pay 100% fr this because they are not in my dental plan.

    I have to get some rest now becuase I am going to try to go early tomorrow morning.

    Thanks for your input, Mr Knowitall. Sorry if I am a little upset, but I have been on pain-killers for a week now (and it still hurts!) and I am kindo of "out of it" you might say.

    But I wanted to post this becuase I was wandering if there was any type "legal" thing I should do at this point in case I need to go that route.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Dental Abscess After Failed Filling

    If you can save the tooth, I really recommend that over an extraction. Losing a tooth can result in bone loss in the jaw, can make adjacent tooth unstable, etc.

    The issue, in terms of a dental malpractice claim, again is damages. So far, while not discounting your anger and your suffering, even if we assume this is malpractice your damages as reported (by the measure of what it costs to litigate a malpractice case) is not likely to justify the high cost of malpractice litigation.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Dental Abscess After Failed Filling

    Gonzo,

    First I would like to say how sorry I am to hear of your bad experiences at the dental office. As a dentist myself I will try to give my input to help you make a more informed decision. To begin with when a filling goes deeper than the gumline you may also need to see a periodontist for bone recontouring surgery. As a dentist I do agree with Mr. Knowitall that in general you should always try to keep as many teeth as possible. From your description this is most likely a second molar, the farthest one in the back. If you still have one good molar in front of it and if finances are truly a concern I will put your mind at ease in telling you that the tooth you are trying to save is not the primary tooth in chewing and that many people eat fine without this tooth. To add to what Mr. K has said above is that specifically removing second molars, assuming you have the rest of your teeth, will not effect adjacent teeth in this case.

    What is disturbing is what you report of the hygienist. Maybe someone from california can clear this up for me but in my state, Ohio, a hygienist cannot diagnose anything. It would be illegal where I work for a hygienist to diagnose a faulty restoration, see a patient in that context and use any sort of instrument to pack or smooth it off. These three things are specifically practicing without a license even if the doctor is in the office.

    So to conclude having a filling in a second molar break is quite common due to bite force ( tooth closest to the hinge takes the most force, physics) but it is not generally necessary for daily eating if you have the rest of your teeth. I hope this helps you out in your decisions.

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