Orthodontists are healthcare providers who specialize in issues such as the correction and prevention of tooth alignment irregularities. As with any health care professional, an orthodontist is held to standards of competency with regards to their treatment of patients. An orthodontist’s failure to meet that standard may mean that a patient could obtain compensation for any injuries that result from that failure.
However, prior to seeking to commence a medical malpractice claim there are some things a victim needs to keep in mind. Firstly, just because something went wrong during their orthodontic care, and harm resulted, does not automatically mean that the orthodontist is liable to the patient for malpractice. There is some degree of expected risk associated with all medical and dental procedures. Complications may not always be out of the ordinary.
When commencing an orthodontic malpractice case it is important to closely examine the situation that led to the harm, determine the appropriate course of treatment and the professional conduct that the situation required, and then determine what the orthodontist did (or did not do) based on that standard. If the orthodontist failed to provide the level of care a local, similarly-trained orthodontist would have provided under those circumstances, then the patient may have a claim for malpractice.
There are two ways orthodontic malpractice can occur. An orthodontist either makes an error in the treatment of a patient or fails to take appropriate action in the patient’s treatment. Injuries may occur with:
- Braces – failure to properly monitor a patient with braces, or does not apply the braces correctly, may cause the patient to suffer from periodontal disease, pain, and the incorrect positioning of their teeth. Jaw problems, teeth extractions, and future surgeries or orthodontic treatments can result from these conditions.
- Invisalign – only certain patients have been approved for invisalign. Invisalign only moves teeth in certain ways. If used incorrectly by an orthodontist, the patient’s mouth can be damaged, potentially costing a lot of money to remedy.
In order to recover damages for alleged orthodontic malpractice, the patient will need to prove that:
- The orthodontist owed a duty of care to the patient,
- That duty of care was breached by the orthodontist’s failure to provide the kind of treatment that a “reasonably skilled and competent orthodontist would have provided” under the circumstances,
- The breach of the duty of care by the orthodontist caused the patient to be injured (and the harm would not have happened had the orthodontist not made the error or been negligent), and
- The patient is entitled to damages because the plaintiff has the standing to sue and has satisfied the other elements of medical malpractice.
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