Dental implant lawsuits: A PLP perspective
Compared with many other dental procedures, the complications arising from implant treatment can be severe, sometimes requiring major surgical and/or prosthetic remediation. The more significant the patient’s injury and costly the corrective treatment, the more likely the patient is to sue the treating dentist.
As the number of dentists placing dental implants increases, so does the frequency of implant-related legal actions. The purpose of this article is to discuss some of the ways dentists can protect themselves from allegations of malpractice in relation to dental implant treatment.
Implant complications that may result in a lawsuit include:
- post-operative infection;
- implant failure;
- bone graft failure;
- sinus involvement;
- loss of adjacent teeth;
- non-restorable implant(s); and
- poorly restored implant(s).
Some of these complications may be inherent risks, while others may occur because of negligent technique or arise from factors overlooked during the initial examination phase and deficient or non-existent treatment planning.
As noted in the RCDSO’s Implant Guideline, “patient evaluation and treatment planning is of utmost importance in dental implant treatment.” Dentists should remember to consider the following steps in the evaluation/planning stage:
- Consideration of alternative treatment options in light of the presenting status of surrounding teeth, soft tissues and associated structures;
- Reviewing the patient’s medical history for relevant systemic medical conditions;
- Diagnosis and treatment of pre-existing dental disease;
- Detailed discussion(s) about the patient’s expectations and treatment options, including the risks and benefits of and alternatives to implants;
- Assessment of the patient’s ability to maintain oral hygiene;
- Thorough patient work-up including necessary imaging and other diagnostic aids; and
- Collaboration between surgical and restorative dentists in developing a treatment plan.
Dentists can avoid complaints and demands for compensation arising from implant placement by investing time in patient assessment and education and careful planning before commencing treatment. Further, both the surgical and prosthetic phases of implant treatment require a specific knowledge base and particular clinical skills. Members are encouraged to review and follow the RCDSO’s Implant Guidelines regarding educational requirements and professional responsibilities relating to implant dentistry.