Understanding an Expert Witness in Dental Malpractice Cases


Dental malpractice paper and gavel An expert witness is often used in dental malpractice cases because they are very difficult to prove. Without an expert opinion, many cases would not get past the initial stages and victims would suffer. The following is why expert witness services in dental cases play such a vital role.


The Level of Proof

Negligence is difficult to prove in a medical environment in and of itself. Dental injuries that occur typically include either breach of contract or negligence. With negligence, a medical expert witness can help establish why there was negligence as well as educate a jury or judge as to what negligence in a dental environment entails.

High Standard

To prove negligence, a plaintiff must establish that the dentist or staff were remiss in care, took actions that were reckless, or used equipment and/or processes that were outdated or not up to the standards of the dental industry. Any of those are difficult to prove without a medical expert witness because much of it is subjective unless the negligence approaches an extreme level. A specific process a dentist uses, for example, may not be the “latest and greatest,” but may be a process that was the industry standard for decades, while new processes may still be in the untested stage as they apply to mass application.


The Role of Education

This makes the education of a judge or jury critical in dental malpractice cases. Because oral surgery is different than regular, medical surgery, a jury may need to be educated in the surgical process, as well as have what negligence entails mapped out for them. A medical witness will be able to explain dental equipment, processes, standard of care and quality, and much more, which helps show that negligence occurred, especially with an audience that is not familiar with a lot of what dentistry includes.


Education also covers aspects of dental work that are different than what an expert witness in surgery would describe. The removal of wisdom teeth, for example, is very different in scope and intent than surgery to fix a clogged artery or even to remove a tumor. The possible complications are different as well.


With a wisdom tooth extraction, there are accepted risks, like infection setting in, that depend on actions of both the dentist and patient to control. At the same time, wisdom teeth extraction can be extremely problematic with some people, so what may appear as negligence because of patient discomfort is actually within the scope of what is expected after oral surgery.


Woman covering mouth at dentist The Impact

Dentistry as a profession is exceedingly unique. The upside to that is that most dentists really care about oral health. The downside to that is that not too many of us are knowledgeable in dental processes.


That is where an expert comes in. They can provide education and perspective that lends credibility to a plaintiff’s assertion. They also can accurately explain, in terms everyone can understand, the pain and suffering that was caused by the negligence and why--legally and practically--what happened should be regarded as negligence.


If you are asking yourself, “Do I need an expert witness?” and you are suing a dentist or clinic for malpractice, the answer to that is “Probably.” This is because dentistry is complex and a court audience will not be up on much that is dental related. If you are in need of a medical expert witness, check out Reliable Clinical Experts.