Theriot Family Dental

A Misdiagnosis Led to a Dental Nightmare

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I need some advice and think I should take some legal action here. I don’t have a regular dentist because of some dental anxiety I have and the fact that I am new to the area. I had a pretty bad toothache in tooth #19 according to a chart I looked up online. It was sensitive to touch and drinking or eating anything cold was causing pretty bad pain. He did some x-rays and said my problem was an impacted wisdom tooth. He recommended that I extract it but also thought a filling may help. I went with the filling. That did not help. I went back and he did an adjustment and told me if that didn’t help I should get the tooth extracted. I told him the source of the pain felt like it was tooth #19, but he insisted that he’s the dentist and knows how to read an x-ray. He did give me a prescription for an antibiotic and said I could take over the counter pain meds for the pain I was in. I ended up going to an oral surgeon in order to have the tooth extracted. Between the antibiotics and the pain meds, I started feeling better. However, once the pain meds wore off, I went right back to being in pain. I went back to the dentist, he gave me more antibiotics. The next day, my jaw was swollen and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the E.R. and they told me I had an abscess on tooth #19. Shocker. I went back to the dentist who recommended an endodontist to me. The endodontist couldn’t see me for almost a month, so I went back to the oral surgeon who extracted the tooth. I feel like this dentist should have to pay for all the extra appointments, including the E.R. and unnecessary wisdom tooth extraction. Am I out of line here?


Dear Justin,

An image of a man grabbing his jaw in pain.

Not only is this dental malpractice, I would consider it gross incompetence. He should not only pay for what you mentioned above, but also for the dental implant you will need to replace the molar that you lost. There was a very good chance that tooth could have been saved had he properly diagnosed you. If he has a problem with that, let him know that you can file a lawsuit and include pain and suffering.

If you need specific information describing his mistakes, here are some of them:

1. At your initial appointment, he should have known you needed a root canal treatment because of the dual symptoms of sensitivity to cold as well as touch. With those symptoms, I can’t figure out why he thought the wisdom tooth was the problem.

2. At your next appointment, he prescribes you an antibiotic. This tells me he at least suspected a tooth infection. Any dentist should know that an antibiotic will not solve an infected tooth. The dentist has to go in there and physically remove the infected pulp. If he didn’t like doing root canal treatments, he could have easily referred you to an endodontist to do it.

3. The doctors in the E.R., who have not been to dental school, had to tell you there was an abscessed tooth. He doesn’t like doing root canals so he finally refers you to an endodontist. Yet, he still leaves you in massive pain. Because your jaw was swollen, the pulp of the tooth was dead. He could have drilled a hole into the tooth and immediately relieved most of your pain. Yet, he just left you in agony.

4. Finally, he refers you to an endodontist that couldn’t see you for several weeks. That is absolutely ridiculous.

It is up to you whether or not you go directly to a lawyer or give him a chance to do the right thing. Either way, you have a great malpractice case.

Dealing with Dental Anxiety

You mentioned having dental anxiety. Given your recent experience, I worry that will have increased. My suggestion is that your next dentist, and you definitely need a different dentist, is a sedation dentist. They can give you a medication that will completely relax you for your appointment, giving you both an anxiety and pain-free experience. You deserve that.

This blog is brought to you by Lafayette, LA Dentist Dr. John Theriot.