Personal Injury Law (Accidents/Slip & Fall)/dental malpractice
I am asking about the best way to approach a former dentist for negligent care. A partner in a dental practice placed two implants in my upper left mouth area directly below my left sinus. The implants failed and were removed. The hole from the failed implants was left open to heal on its own. This dentist checked the area every 2-3 months and thought it was healing by itself. She left the dental practice after 2 years and at my next appointment the senior partner checked my mouth to see how it had healed. He seemed appalled that the implant area was still open. He immediately sent me to an oral surgeon to have the opening closed.
The surgeon cleaned out the area and placed stitches on the inside and outside of my teeth from my eye tooth to my back molar. Six days later my jaw had blown up with a huge infection. The surgeon operated again, cleaning out everything and redoing the stitches. A week later the same thing occurred. Realizing that something else was a problem he sent me to have a CT scan of this area. The scan showed that my nasal passage to my sinus had closed as the opening in my mouth was open to my sinus and had replaced the nasal passage. It required an ENT to operate to reopen my nasal passage and to open up my left sinus. Since that surgery I have had to have 5 additional surgeries to close the opening in my upper left dental area to stop the continual drainage from my mouth through my nose. Whenever I brush my teeth or rinse my mouth the water runs out through my nose. Each surgery has seemed to be successful for a while until I develop a sinus infection which undoes the healing reopening the oral opening. The last surgery down in December 2013 seemed to hold for about 3 months before once again opening to again allow fluid to pour out my nose when brushing my teeth. This area is going to require yet another surgery to reclose the sinus opening. Having this area continually open is extremely dangerous as the sinus is an opening to the brain and could cause a brain infection.
This problem has been going on for 12 years and has caused so much pain and suffering as well as the ongoing expense of the surgeries. We can no longer afford to pay for the continual surgeries and I am tired of having my life revolve around dental appointments and surgical procedures.
What can I do to get help with expenses and to get this to stop? So far it we have over $150,000. invested in my mouth.
I had been having repair work done starting 14 years ago to repair some breakdowns in past dental procedures. This senior dentist explained that he would repair the breakdowns I had been experiencing after having my original top of the line repair work with crowns and fixed bridges installed and completed about 25 years earlier. He said this would all be completed within 2 years at a total cost of $28,000. He also said this work would last me for the rest of my life.
It was 12 years and $95,000. when we reminded him of his original statement costs and time lines. During this extended time of bridges replaced and crowns redone, the cost kept rising, This is what instigated the implant surgery. I had been having all this work done by the owner of the dental practice. Everytime I went back to see him there was always something else that needed to be corrected, and so it continued. This dentist was in my mouth to do something every year, and he was fully aware that I suffered from dry mouth. However, in November 2012 he noticed that I had some decay under my front teeth which I thought had been caused by receding gums. He checked that out and then started looking at my other teeth and had some X-rays done and scheduled an appointment for the following week. When we arrived he had us meet him in the consultation room. He explained that there was decay under all of my teeth (that he had crowned and connected with fixed bridges throughout the past years) and that I needed to have all of my teeth removed and would have that done in the next couple of days and that he would use some earlier lower jar implants to hold a removable lower plate while he decided what they would do to replace everything. Since I had been a longtime patient he would do this replacement work for only $40,000.
Within two days I had all of my lower teeth extracted and all but 5 upper teeth removed, the 5 left to hold a temporary upper plate. I was absolutely destroyed and humiliated to have all of my teeth removed when I had endured so much time and expensive procedures to keep my natural teeth. I know I have been going through this maze for a long time and I am totally exhausted and have no idea of how to proceed at this point. It seems to me that there is more than one case of dental malpractice going on and I really need some help to know how to proceed. To make matters worse, the senior dentist who has throughly screwed up my mouth rarely speaks to me in a civil manner and frequently yells and barks at me when I mention that something doesn't feel right or hurts or doesn't fit right. At one point, when he had removed the top plate to scrape decay off the 5 remaining teeth, (I had taken a tranquilizer to remain calm and to try to sleep through the procedure) he hit a nerve or something on a back tooth which jerked me awake and caused extreme pain and surprise. I jerked, as I believe anyone would have done. He yelled and screened at me to NEVER jerk like that again NEVER!! and kept yelling. I tried to explain that I was shocked and hurt and...but he kept YELLING to NEVER do that again. Then he left the room and came back about 15 minutes later to continue. BUT did not apologize for yelling. This has been a frequent behavior. This is further humiliating and demeaning and very difficult to deal with after all I have been through at his hands. I suffer from PTSD and he certainly isn't helping. I feel like throwing up every time I have to sit in his chair.
I started seeing this dentist when I was 55 and now I am 69 and it seems like it will never stop. Please help me with this issue.
I wish I could help you with this complicated case. Unfortunately, I am a lawyer in New York and am not licensed to practice law in California.
All medical malpractice cases are complicated, including dental malpractice. The applicable laws in each state are different.
I urge you to consult with an attorney experienced in dental malpractice in your community. He or she will be in the best position to advise you of your legal rights and explain the applicable law to you.
If you have trouble finding a lawyer, I suggest you call the local bar association. Very often, they have lawyers that they can refer you to. In addition, you may want to consider finding a lawyer on AVVO.com or Lawyers.com.