The standard of care for general dentists would be defined as that level of care that would be provided by a reasonably prudent general dentist in the same circumstances.
For patients not familiar with legal proceedings, it's important to know that the standard is determined by other professionals. In other words, in order to establish dental malpractice, you need to have another dentist willing to testify that the care delivered violates the standard of care. And the testimony of that dentist has to be more convincing than the testimony of another dentist, who may be testifying on behalf of the defendant, who may say that the treatment did, in fact, meet the standard of care.
However, note that when a procedure is typically referred to a specialist, the standard of care would usually be that which the specialist would provide, even if the treating dentist is a general dentist.
"In cases involving treatment that falls within the scope of what a specialist would ordinarily provide, the plaintiff (patient) customarily retains a member of that specialty as an expert witness. As a result, the standard of care is defined by the specialist, regardless of whether the denfendant dentist is another specialist or a general practitioner." (Risk Management Seminar Manual by CNA Health Pro, June, 2009, p. 207) Thus, for endodontic therapy, the general dentist would be held to the standards of the endodontist. The CNA manual, however, notes that there are exceptions to this rule in some states.
Elements of the standard of care for general dentistry
Here are some illustrations of the standard of care.
Common instances of general dentistry malpractice:
Indications of possible sub-standard dental care:
- Dental care that causes other problems in the mouth, such as gum disease, or infection.
- One of the problems that can be caused by improper dental care is damage to the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ). Click here to read a list of the symptoms of TMJ disorder.
- Extracting the wrong tooth.
- Damaging adjacent teeth near the area of treatment.