dental malpractice lawyers

While most people dread going to the dentist, oral hygiene is an important part of overall health. Just like doctors, dentists are required to meet a certain standard of care in their work. Nova Scotia has adopted the National Code of Ethics, regulated by the Canadian Dental Association (CDA). This set of principles is a guide to the professional conduct to which dentists are expected to keep their patients’ health and well-being at the forefront of all the treatment they provide.

When a dentist delivers care that falls below the accepted standard, patients can suffer severe or fatal injuries. If incorrect, delayed, or poor dental treatment has caused you harm, then you may be able to file a dental malpractice claim to recover compensation.

What is Dental Malpractice?

Dental malpractice involves a dental health care provider operating in a manner that is substandard and causing harm as a result. Harm can refer to any injury resulting from the substantard dental care. Although negligence in dental care is largely preventable, it can cause severe and long-lasting injuries. Negligence cases relating to dental care are considered by law in the same category as a medical malpractice claim. A medical malpractice claim is legally quite similar to a dental malpractice claim.

Consequences of dental malpractice can include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Infection
  • Broken teeth
  • Corrective surgery
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Unnecessary treatment
  • Chemical burns
  • Facial paralysis
  • Wrongful death

Examples of Dental Malpractice

Dental care can range from a routine cleaning to a complex surgery. It is the responsibility of dental professionals to identify health risks and do their best to keep patients safe. A large number of claims filed against dentist are treatment-related, but errors can happen before, during, and after dental procedures.

A example of an actual dental malpractice case involved a dentist drilling through the bone underneath a patient’s molar, causing nerve damage and bone damage in the lower jaw. The patient unfortunately suffered from permanent pain, numbness, and tingling due to the operation. The jury agreed that the dentist failed to provide proper care and awarded the patient $1 million.

Some of the most common types of dental malpractice errors include:

  • Defective installation of a dental product
  • Inattention to the patient
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Aspiration of foreign objects
  • Improper sterilization
  • Lack of informed consent
  • Improper extractions

Causes of Dental Malpractice

Dentists are responsible for making sure that you fully understand the risks associated with their recommended care, treatment, diagnosis, or surgery. If your dentist fails to provide the information necessary for you to make an informed decision about your dental care and you suffer injuries, your damages may warrant legal action for dental malpractice.

In order for dental treatment to be considered negligent, the care must have fallen below what is reasonable for accepted dental practices in those circumstances. Although dental procedures are usually safe, poor quality dental care may result from dental malpractice for various reasons.

Delayed Diagnosis

When a dentist fails to properly diagnose your condition in a timely manner. A delayed diagnosis can prevent you from receiving proper treatment, causing permanent damage or progression of an oral disease. The condition requiring treatment to correct the error may be more invasive, putting you at risk for health complications and additional medical expenses.


The failure to diagnose the signs and symptoms of a dental problem or disease, such as gum disease or oral cancer. The delays to properly diagnose or treat a serious issue can reduce the chances of full or partial recovery. A misdiagnosis can also lead to inappropriate treatment, surgeries, and medications.

Poor Standard of Treatment

When your dental care provider delivers substandard treatment, causing further injury. This can include the failure to oversee actions of employees, improper use or defective dental tools, and other negligent actions or inactions that can cause devastating complications.

Surgical Errors

Avoidable mistakes during dental surgery can include excessive use of force, improper or incorrect administration of anesthesia, and improper dental implants or extractions. Incorrect use of instruments can also lead to surgical errors that cause injuries, such as cutting the tongue, perforating the sinuses, or severing a nerve.

Dental malpractice may also be caused by the failure of the dentist or health care professional to treat complications arising during dental treatment. Failure to treat can often result in the development of more serious conditions. Additionally, failure to refer a patient to a specialist may give rise to a dental malpractice claim if the failure results in further damage or injury to the patient.

How to Prove Dental Malpractice

Dental malpractice may be caused by health care professionals other than dentists. For example, you may have a claim against a dental assistant, anesthesiologist, periodontist, orthodontist, endodontist, pharmacist, or maxillofacial surgeon. In some cases, the medical facility may be liable for your injuries that result from negligence on part of one or more members involved in a dental procedure.

Proving dental malpractice requires four components for a claim to be successful. Each element requires medical records and expert evidence to meet the civil standard of proof. Failure to produce evidence that establishes one of the four elements will almost certainly result in an unsuccessful claim.

Duty of Care

A duty of care is a legal obligation imposed on any medical professional, including dentists, when providing treatment to their patients. You will need to establish that a dentist-patient relationship existed.

Breach of Duty

The standard of care is the acceptable and recommended level of care that is expected to be met by your dentist and applied in the circumstances of your case. You will need to prove that the standard of care was inferior compared to a dentist with similar skills under the same conditions.


Causation refers to the link between the breach of standard of care and the harm the patient suffered. The basic question to establish causation is, “would the injury have occurred if the breach of duty didn’t happen?”


Damage is the harm, injury, or loss that occurred due to the breach of standard of care of the dentist. It is necessary that the dental negligence caused you to suffer physical, psychological, or financial damages for a civil claim to be successful.

The damages that you can sue for in a dental malpractice claim may include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Psychological or emotional trauma
  • Income loss (due to time off work while recovering or inability to work into the future)
  • Cost of care (to treat the injury on an ongoing basis)

Steps to File Dental Malpractice Claims

The limitation period (the deadline) for dental malpractice claims in Nova Scotia is two years. The two-year limitation period begins to run on the date that you knew, or should have known, that you suffered an injury due to the negligent dental work. There are some exceptions to this rule and other filing requirements, so it’s best to speak with experienced dental malpractice lawyers before filing a claim.

Regardless of any issues related to your limitation period (when you became aware of your injury), medical and dental malpractice claims will not be considered after fifteen years. The Province of Nova Scotia has enacted legislation that designates this deadline as an “ultimate limitation period”.

The first step in filing a dental malpractice lawsuit is contacting a dental malpractice lawyer (also called personal injury lawyers). A personal injury lawyer will assess the four required elements that must be proven for your claim to be successful. You will need to provide your relevant dental records as evidence of what has happened. It is likely that your lawyer will send these dental records to various medical experts to review.

Statement of Claim

If your dental malpractice attorney determines you have a viable claim, he or she will file a lawsuit on your behalf within the applicable limitation period.

Statement of Defence

The dentist, or other dental health care practitioner, that you sued will typically have their insurance company respond to the allegations in your statement of claim with a statement of defence.


Discovery examinations include all parties involved in the lawsuit sharing evidence of what happened. You will give evidence of the impact the dental malpractice has had on your life. The dentist will be asked questions around the dental care that caused your injuries.


The parties will hire experts to provide opinions in support of their cases.


The parties can enter into a settlement agreement at any stage. Settlement can be achieved in advance of trial through a mediation process. If no settlement can be reached, the action will advance to a trial.

What is my Dental Malpractice Claim Worth?

The amount of compensation that you can claim for dental malpractice varies on the complexity of the circumstances and the severity and the long-term impact of your injuries. A medical malpractice lawyer will assess the level of compensation you  (the Plaintiff) should receive based on the nature of the injury and the impact on the your life, including any avoidable suffering, loss of income and cost of care. The costs of additional treatment may also be considered.

If you or someone you know has suffered an injury due to a dental malpractice, contact Valent Legal to book a free consultation with a dental malpractice lawyer. Our highly qualified team will guide you through the claims process and advise you on your legal options to recover the compensation you deserve. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means we don’t get paid unless you get a settlement or win a judgment in court.

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