The world is imperfect, and so are the people who live in it. No matter how long a doctor attended medical school or how much money they spent to become a leading expert in their field, mistakes happen. Unfortunately, botched surgical work is a very real concern. Many have suffered from treatments that have gone wrong. This is sometimes due to a blind trust in the, “Doctor knows best” theory. As a society, patients believe medical professionals are all-knowing and can do no wrong.
When you think of medical malpractice, your immediate thoughts may be understaffed doctor’s offices or busy hospital emergency rooms. And you would be correct. But some of the most overlooked malpractice suits come from the field of dentistry. For many who have experienced injuries by the hand of their dentist, they feel stuck in a grey area. Often ending up in a state of shock and uncertainty. Not knowing how to go about assessing the damage and the need for legal action.
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What Is Lingual Nerve Pain?
As victims know, lingual nerve damage can be intense. If you’ve ever had a tooth break, leaving the nerve exposed, then you know the feeling all too well. The grimace on your face is in remembrance of that excruciating pain. Lingual nerve damage is the coup de gras of all mouth related pain. This avoidable damage often affects the sides of the tongue. The lingual nerve handles general somatic (sensory) innervation. In short, it allows the tongue to taste.
The tongue is a jack of all trades, as it helps with the mouth cleaning process. It also perceives five different taste categories and works with the lips and teeth to speak. To reveal the precise location of the LN, radiographic imaging is used. This is standard for most visits and essential when extracting teeth. The anatomical knowledge of this nerve is important in decreasing the risk of damage. If the LN becomes damaged or severed, some or all the functions of the tongue one would take for granted, stop.
Lingual nerve injuries are distressing and beyond uncomfortable. For those unlucky enough to experience it, the symptoms may include:
- Numbness in tongue and gums
- Altered sensation in the tongue
- Impaired speech
- Lack of taste
- Pain or burning on the affected side of tongue
More often than not these injuries are debilitating and permanent.
So, how does this even happen? Damage to the lingual nerve most often occurs when extracting wisdom teeth. No one person has the same size lingual nerve, after all. So if proper imaging isn’t done to examine each individual’s risk, the chance of severing the nerve skyrockets.
What Does A Lingual Nerve Damage Lawsuit Look Like?
Let’s look at the case of high school student Madelyn, aka “Madie.” Madie, a healthy sixteen-year-old lacrosse player, went in for a routine wisdom tooth removal. At first, the surgery seemed to go off without a hitch. Over the course of the next few weeks, Madie complained of lingering numbness and pain on the right side of her mouth. During school, she would have to leave class to clean the blood from her mouth due to accidental biting. The numbness to her tongue culminated in many ways. Leading to excessive drool and damage to the taste buds from repeated biting, often while eating or playing sports. As if that wasn’t enough, she also developed impaired speech. Resulting in a worrisome lisp that her mother thought to be permanent.
Concerned about the lengthy recovery time and continuance of symptoms. Madie’s parents consulted with a family friend and orthodontist. After a quick exam it was obvious Madie’s lingual nerve would need extensive corrective surgery. The corrective surgery performed would reconnect and repair the lingual nerve using an Avance Nerve Graft and Axoguard nerve protector. Six months after the surgery. Madie was able to resume normal activities and was free of all numbing and pain. As wonderful as her recovery is, she was one of the lucky ones. (You can hear more about Madie’s story here.)
In your average, well-managed office, imaging and x-rays are performed before completing any extractions. Whether or not your provider consults the imaging before extraction could result in some patients, like Madie, falling through the cracks. Clinicians must remember that the lingual nerve has a complex sensory and secretomotor function. Therefore, any damage to the LN can result in altered salivary secretion and loss of taste and feel of the affected side. If permanent it can affect a person’s life in major ways. But how do you know if your misfortune is malpractice?
Let’s take a look at the definition of medical malpractice:
- When a medical act performed or omission of action gives rise to an injury or harm to the patient. The courts impose liability for failure to treat patients and/or follow all procedures put in place to do no harm.
In Madie’s case, they failed to locate and identify her LN. Thus severing it, resulting in extreme symptoms and a definitive need for corrective surgery. Followed by months of recovery time along with pain and suffering.
How To Know If You’re A Victim
It’s important to know what to look for when determining whether or not malpractice may have led to the injury. The following are the most common signs of malpractice in dentistry:
- Complications from previous work
- Temporary or permanent numbness or loss of taste sensation
- Crown or bridge complications due to negligence
- The provider fails to take into consideration the patient’s medical history
- Permanent or temporary injuries to tongue, jaw, lips, or chin
- Wrongful death resulting from procedures, extractions, or oral surgeries
- Nerve injuries, which affect the patient’s ability to taste or cause permanent damage
If you have experienced any of the injuries listed above or suspect malpractice from your provider, you may have grounds for a lingual nerve damage lawsuit. It’s essential that you speak with a qualified attorney. They will have an intimate knowledge of what’s considered lingual nerve damage malpractice and what’s not. As well as assist you in what comes next.
What You’ll Need For A Lingual Nerve Damage Lawsuit:
To prep for your initial meeting with a lawyer, consider gathering evidence to support your claim. It’s an easy first step. This may include getting copies of your records and all procedures done. Think X-rays, progress notes, and records of prescriptions. As well as any other information that may be on their, or your personal computer. This may include emails and documented complaints.
It’s a good idea to document and date the nature and extent of your injury. Record ailments in a personal journal, if possible. This can help create a timeline of symptoms. The more evidence you can provide your lingual nerve damage lawyer, the more credible your claim will be.
If you feel like you’ve been the victim of lingual nerve damage or have any questions on how to move forward, contact our office today. Pursuing a lingual nerve damage lawsuit, may be your best bet. We can get you started on the right path, straight away. Click here to set up a free consultation.