A trip to the dentist is never relished, especially if you must have some kind of procedure. Even worse if that procedure goes wrong and you suffer more pain or an injury as a result.
One cause of harm that can be suffered in the dentist’s chair is nerve damage caused by dental anaesthesia, which can cause prolonged or even permanent change in sensation in the mouth. Our experts in the medical negligence team at the Negligence Claimline outlines your options if you have suffered such an injury.
There are two main nerves in the mouth that can be vulnerable to such injury: the lingual nerve and the inferior alveolar nerve. The lingual nerve can be found inside the mandibular bone and the inferior alveolar nerve is located in the alveolar canal.
Nerve damage caused by dental anaesthesia is relatively rare, but many dental practitioners will reportedly see this form of nerve injury at some point during their careers. The exact mechanism of the injury is unclear, and little can be done to prevent its occurrence.
Symptoms of nerve damage include:
- loss of feeling, tingling or burning sensation in the tongue, chin, cheek, lip or jaw;
- loss of the ability to differentiate between hot and cold foods and liquids;
- change in taste;
- difficulty eating; and
In most cases the nerve damage will resolve itself, usually within 6-12 months. Sometimes, the physical effects of nerve damage can last longer and require referrals to both medical and dental specialists for follow-up treatment. This kind of injury can also lead to adverse psychological effects.
Surgery is sometimes required to cure nerve damage, However, since surgery is not recommended for lingual nerve damage caused by injection, non-surgical interventions may be needed. These include:
- pain medication prescriptions;
- nerve block;
- acupuncture; or
- tongue splints.
Your dentist will monitor your symptoms to mark your progress and ensure the treatment prescribed is working. You are also likely to undergo a scan (such as a CT scan) to ensure there is no obstruction to the nerve to allow it to heal.
Nerve injuries have a narrow window of optimum repair, so it is imperative that you are treated as soon as possible after your nerve damage is sustained.
You may want to claim compensation for your nerve damage injury, in which case you need to show the dentist who caused your injury was negligent. This requires you to prove that they owed you a duty of care (all medical professionals do), that they breached this duty of care, and that you were injured as a result.
For most tort cases, such as a road traffic accident, the person responsible for your injuries would be found negligent if they failed to act in the way a ‘reasonable man’ or the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ would act in the same situation.
However, if your injuries were caused by a healthcare professional, such as a dentist, the test laid out in Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee (1957) applies. This states that your dentist would be found negligent if she or he failed to act in accordance with a practice that is considered acceptable by a responsible healthcare professional.
The amount of compensation you receive will depend on a number of factors including the effect the injury has had on your life, your mental health, your lifestyle, and your long-term prognosis. Also taken into account will be the amount of care and support you require as a result of your injury.
For a confidential discussion about a dental error or any other medical negligence issue, contact us today for a free initial consultation with one of our specialist medical negligence solicitors on 01245 253214 or email [email protected]
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.