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Root Canal Nightmare

Bonnie_Raitt

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My wife and I left on an extended trip about a week ago. The day before we left she had an old crown replaced. The dentist said she had a cavity underneath the old crown. He fixed it but said that sometimes these deep cavities end up needing a root canal. This was on tooth number 15 (last one upper row).

Well two or three days into the trip and her jaw starts hurting pretty bad when exposed to cold air. We called our dentist who said we should find a endodotist and see if she needed a root canal. He put her one Penicillin and pain meds. This was on Friday. We find an endodontist at our next stop and schedule an appointment for Monday morning.

We show up, he exams her and says she does need a RC. He starts right away and finishes in a 2 or 3 hours. He comes out and says that he has accidentally done the wrong tooth (He did the one next to #15). He says he will do #15 after a 10 minute break. He completes it in another couple of hours.

Of course, with a RC you often do the RC over two days. So we need to go in the next day to have them finished. She spends 5 hours the next day finishing the RC. When she comes out she looks at me with a distraught look, tells me to deal with the paperwork, and immediately goes outside. I go to the receptionist who says that there will be no charge because the doctor screwed up. I went outside and found my wife in tears in the parking lot. She said that if it had taken 5 minutes longer she would have broken down in the chair

The doctor was very apologetic and said he had done thousands of these and had never made this mistake before. He called later that day to see if she was OK.

Today,my wife seems to be OKwith just some expected jaw soreness. We have been corresponding with a group of friends daily on our trip and when we told them what happened, their responses ranged from humor to outrage to sympathy. Several of them suggested legal action. We are not litigious people normally.

I was wondering what the thoughts of others Tuggers are about her situation

BR
 

Blondie

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I guess these things can happen. I am sure some dentists on this board will respond. Dentist did not charge anything which is an appropriate gesture considering... Sorry she went through that and hopefully you will enjoy the rest of your trip. It really is a shame for them both. She suffered and he spend lots of his time and money.
 

ricoba

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That is no fun whatsoever. Having had two root canals, I know they can literally be a real pain!

At least the dentist was decent enough not to charge you for the procedures.

Hopefully the pain will not be an issue that makes your trip miserable.:(

My last root canal was a couple of months ago, and I don't remember the pain going on too long, thankfully.
 

gmarine

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Who is going to pay for the post, crown and future work if needed on the tooth that was mistakenly given a root canal? I hate to say it but I would consult a lawyer. Doing a root canal on a perfectly good tooth is a terrible mistake and it may cost money in the future.
 

Icc5

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I agree

Who is going to pay for the post, crown and future work if needed on the tooth that was mistakenly given a root canal? I hate to say it but I would consult a lawyer. Doing a root canal on a perfectly good tooth is a terrible mistake and it may cost money in the future.
Just to protct her and what could happen in the future I would also seek an attorney. Yes, mistakes happen and this one cost a lot of pain and time lost.
Who knows what this might cause in the future?
Bart
 

dioxide45

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I thought in order to put a crown on a tooth that the tooth needs a root canal to kill the nerve? Otherwise filing it down to place the crown would not be pleasant. So if the tooth already had a crown, why would it need a root canal?
 

tlwmkw

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I would ask the dentist to give some reassurance that he will help with any future costs associated with the wrongly treated tooth- get it in writing. A dentist has a reputation in his community and I doubt he would try to do anything shady but get it in writing.

I would not get lawyers involved. For the amounts of money you are dealing with the legal fees will easily outpace the dental fees. I learned this the hard way when dealing with a lawyer regarding some real estate transactions. He was so nice and friendly when we called him on the phone with questions, so we would call him whenever needed while he prepared paperwork, etc. Needless to say we got a huge bill for all the phone calls. I even had to return to his office three times to sign off on the papers and he charged me for each visit even though it was not done in one visit because of his error. Believe me it is not worth dealing with a lawyer unless it is over large sums of money and he agrees to accept no fee- only a percent of what he collects. In this case I don't think dental work would interest the average ambulance chaser and other lawyers would rip you off.
 

sstamm

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I thought in order to put a crown on a tooth that the tooth needs a root canal to kill the nerve? Otherwise filing it down to place the crown would not be pleasant. So if the tooth already had a crown, why would it need a root canal?

No, a crown does not require a root canal. I have several crowns and never had a root canal until last year- on a tooth with no crown.

It does seem that both of the OP's wife's teeth will now need a crown. So that needs to be addressed. Although I think in general that we as a society are overly litigious, this is one case where it may be required, unless the endodontist also agrees to cover the cost of the additional crown.

Although the office did not charge for the root canal, I hope that they at least provided a statement of services provided. If not, maybe they should ask for a copy of the chart. The OP needs to have something in writing detailing the procedures that were done.

To the OP- I hope your wife feels better. My only root canal was no fun. The pain wasn't bad for very long, but the lesser discomfort lingered for a while. I can't imagine 2 teeth at once.
 

Big Matt

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I have two crowns and neither tooth required a root canal. It has to do with how far down the damage is on the tooth and whether there is risk of further fracturing.

I thought in order to put a crown on a tooth that the tooth needs a root canal to kill the nerve? Otherwise filing it down to place the crown would not be pleasant. So if the tooth already had a crown, why would it need a root canal?
 

Don

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I just got a crown last month with no root canal. The only reason I got it was to avoid future problems. The tooth came in with broken enamel and had already had several small fillings, and it needed another.
 

summervaca

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I have had tons of dental issues due to an injury when I was very young and not great dental care growing up.

I HAVE had a root canal on a tooth which was already crowned and that does not seem that odd to me, but to perform a root canal on the wrong tooth seems as ridiculous to me as cutting off the wrong leg!! Good grief! That's why they are numbered!

I don't know about the lawyer, but I think you should definitely be taking this up with the dentist. I don't think you should pay for ANY of the services you received from this person. This will definitely affect the health and maintenance of that tooth.

Please let us know what you decide to do. This just makes my blood boil.

Good Luck
 

Bonnie_Raitt

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The dentist did not charge us for anything. He genuinely seemed horrorfied and apologetic. I'd like to hear the opinions of some dentists, if there are any reading this thread

My wife continues to recover and seems to be doing OK

BR
 

Big Matt

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I think you should pay for the root canal on the correct tooth, pay nothing on the incorrect tooth, and sue him for damages due to his negligence. I'm sure you'll settle on something.

Getting a root canal on the wrong tooth and having potential future issues with that tooth could cost way more than the cost of the root canal IMO, and that's all he's offering. Would it be different if he pulled the wrong tooth? That's what may end up happening.
 

gmarine

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I would ask the dentist to give some reassurance that he will help with any future costs associated with the wrongly treated tooth- get it in writing. A dentist has a reputation in his community and I doubt he would try to do anything shady but get it in writing.

I would not get lawyers involved. For the amounts of money you are dealing with the legal fees will easily outpace the dental fees. I learned this the hard way when dealing with a lawyer regarding some real estate transactions. He was so nice and friendly when we called him on the phone with questions, so we would call him whenever needed while he prepared paperwork, etc. Needless to say we got a huge bill for all the phone calls. I even had to return to his office three times to sign off on the papers and he charged me for each visit even though it was not done in one visit because of his error. Believe me it is not worth dealing with a lawyer unless it is over large sums of money and he agrees to accept no fee- only a percent of what he collects. In this case I don't think dental work would interest the average ambulance chaser and other lawyers would rip you off.
There would be no legal fees for a malpractice claim. The lawyer would get paid contingent on a settlement or winning in court and his fees would come from that. No out of pocket expenses.
 

tlwmkw

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You are right that if you can get a lawyer to take this as a malpractice on a contingency basis then there would be no up front fee (but they would take 30% of any award). With this type of situation I don't think you would be looking at a large amount of money and therefore I don't think a lawyer would do this on a contingency basis. For these reasons I continue to warn the OP to avoid entanglement with lawyers. They will charge a fee for any work done and won't want 30% of a small amount that you might collect on this. Their fee will be more than the 30%.
 

Jennie

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There will be no fee for a consultation with any attorney who specializes in malpractise cases. Call the local Bar Association for the name of 3 attorneys who specialize in this area. Then contact one or more of them by phone. They (or a paralegal assistant) will obtain the pertinent information from you and if they feel the case may be worth taking, they will schedule an office interview. They may have successfully litigated similar cases before and will discuss the legal process and possible outcomes.

Malpractise attorneys will know dentists whom they can call upon to evaluate the situation and give an opinion as to possible future problems that may arise as a result of the error.

What this dentist did seems grossly incompetent and could be related to some mental problem or substance abuse issues. You should contact the government agency that oversees dental licensing and professional conduct in his jurisdiction to see if there have been any malpractise allegations and/or judgments filed against him. This info can often times be found on the Internet. You don't have to let them know initially the reason for your inquiry. A lot of people check when trying to choose a health care practitioner.

For sure if there have been prior complaints or judgments, you should file a report and let the authorities investigate and take appropriate action, if necessary, to prevent him from victimizing others.

If a malpractise attorney shows some interest, he or she will take this step for you.

As others have pointed out, there may be future pain, cost, and suffering due to his mistake. He may not be available to provide free treatment if it becomes necessary. And even if he is available, you probably will not want to trust him again.
 
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gmarine

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You are right that if you can get a lawyer to take this as a malpractice on a contingency basis then there would be no up front fee (but they would take 30% of any award). With this type of situation I don't think you would be looking at a large amount of money and therefore I don't think a lawyer would do this on a contingency basis. For these reasons I continue to warn the OP to avoid entanglement with lawyers. They will charge a fee for any work done and won't want 30% of a small amount that you might collect on this. Their fee will be more than the 30%.
I'm not sure that an award on this would be very small. The tooth that was mistakenly given a root canal is permanently damaged and will require care for the rest of the OPs life. There is also the issue of the pain and suffering from the unnecessary root canal.

Not consulting an attorney would be foolish.
 

JudyH

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Not every root canal gets crowned, my son's didn't. I would go home and have a consultation with my own dentist and any endontist he recommends for a second opinion.
 

Laurie

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I agree with gmarine and Jennie - I would definitely consult an attorney who specializes in malpractice cases, and hire someone who would work on contingency. I'm sure endodontists are required to carry malpractice insurance, who hopefully would settle this out of court.

I don't think it makes you "litigious" people in any negative sense if you were to pursue this - I think it would be fair for her to be compensated for the permanent damage to the healthy tooth she had when she walked into his office, which can't be restored no matter how apologetic he was, and which could cause her more problems down the line.
 

Zac495

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I have had 3 root canals. They must be capped/crowned. So first I would want to have something in writing that the dentist will pay for these expenses. Second, two of my root canals didn't work. I eventually had to have the darn things pulled out (I have no back molars on the bottom of my left side). You can't see it, but it's uncomfortable to eat. ONE of the root canals was the dentist's fault - (though it was something that can happen - just not usually with a good one).

I would also discuss the possibility of future dental work - I have to get implants. But I do think the dentist was nice and did the right thing by not charging you- I wouldn't sue - but I would be sure this doesn't cost you anything.

I'm so sorry this happened to her.
 

Kay H

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But I do think the dentist was nice and did the right thing by not charging you- I wouldn't sue - but I would be sure this doesn't cost you anything.

I'm so sorry this happened to her.

The dentist was nice not to charge to do the correct surgery after doing surgery on the wrong tooth? Sounds like he thinks he is even. If a surgeon operated on the wrong body part, would you think he was nice to not charge to do the correct surgery? Sure sounds to me like he is trying to make a friend, hoping he doesn't get sued. I'd sure expect more than free service for a procedure that should have been done the first time. Sounds like he didn't look at the medical record before he operated. A BIG no-no. I would be mighty upset.:mad: :mad: :mad:

I probably would not have had him do the 2nd surgery. I would want a surgeon who knows what he is doing.
 

Zac495

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The dentist was nice not to charge to do the correct surgery after doing surgery on the wrong tooth? Sounds like he thinks he is even. If a surgeon operated on the wrong body part, would you think he was nice to not charge to do the correct surgery? Sure sounds to me like he is trying to make a friend, hoping he doesn't get sued. I'd sure expect more than free service for a procedure that should have been done the first time. Sounds like he didn't look at the medical record before he operated. A BIG no-no. I would be mighty upset.:mad: :mad: :mad:

I probably would not have had him do the 2nd surgery. I would want a surgeon who knows what he is doing.
Very fair feeling!!!!
Yeah, I'm not sure how I'd feel if it were me. One thing for sure - I wouldn't want to financially ruin someone for an error. Perhaps the OP should work something out - some kind of financial payment with an agreement of no law suit - covering future problems IF there are any.

One more thing - this did (I assume) wreck the vacation. Maybe money in the amount of another vacation.

I totally understand the anger and I would feel the same way. I just don't believe in destroying another person if he showed remorse - he has a family, too. That's all. But it's not my decision.
 

Big Matt

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Ellen,
the doctor has malpractice insurance. It's not going to ruin him. It doesn't sound too bad now, but if OP loses the tooth and has to get a permanent implanted tooth it will start getting pricy and painful.
 

Zac495

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Ellen,
the doctor has malpractice insurance. It's not going to ruin him. It doesn't sound too bad now, but if OP loses the tooth and has to get a permanent implanted tooth it will start getting pricy and painful.
Good point.
 

tlwmkw

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Ellen,

I think you are right- it would be a mistake to get lawyers involved. I do agree that the OP should get guarantees that any future dental expenses related to the tooth should be covered, but why enrich some shyster lawyer in the process? It will delay any sort of settlement to have a lawyer involved and then he will collect his 30% and that will mean the amount will be less and less. I still don't think you could really claim a large amount for this type of injury. I know someone who lost 2 fingers on his right/dominant hand at work and got lawyers involved. He ended up with only $20k for his injury but the lawyer collected another $10k. If he had just worked with his employer he would have done better- as soon as the lawyer got involved they circled the wagons and any offers of settlement disappeared. A jury agreed that the employer was wrong but that the injury didn't have that much value. Most of us would probably disagree with that I would think. If you go this route then you may even end up with nothing if the jury finds for the defendant. I think if you handle this diplomatically then you can reach a good conclusion for all involved. You can even get a mediator if you want to ensure that it is all done on the up and up. Just keep away from lawyers- it will spiral out of control and you will not benefit as a result. They are looking out for easy money for themselves and don't care about you.

I would try to research this dentist and make sure these type of mistakes aren't habitual with him- if they are then you do need to report him to his state board. I would do this quietly while negotiating with him and not let him know until you have an agreement with him in writing.

tlwmkw
 
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