doctors looking at an x-ray

What to Do if Your Dentist Has Missed, or Mis-Diagnosed Cancer in Your Mouth

The word “cancer” is a scary one that we don’t ever want to hear our doctor say. Having cancer is a horrible experience full of fear, anxiety and discomfort. Even though improved medical technology has made the detection of cancer better and more accurate and the treatments more effective in treating it, there is still a lot of “unknowns.”

Similar to other areas of the body, the mouth and throat can also be sites where cancer forms. Oral cancer is less heard of than other cancers, but it is just as serious and can be fatal if not caught and treated early.

Oral Cancer

Today, nearly every dentist office checks each patient’s mouth for the warning signs that oral cancer may be beginning to form or has already formed. These exams are short and non-invasive and are often included as part of the routine oral exam done every six months.

Oral cancer doesn’t always have noticeable symptoms and, as a result, patients don’t know they have it. Usually the noticeable sores occur during the later stages of oral cancer. Often by this time there is little the dentist can do. Sometimes treatment in the later stages is successful, but often they are too little too late.

This is why it is important for patients to visit their dentist every six months and be screened for oral cancer. The condition is easily and effectively treated if proactive measures and early treatment is done. Only a dental professional can observe and notice those subtle indicative symptoms of early-stage oral cancer that often gets overlooked and ignored by the patient. It is the responsibility of the patient to go in for regular check-ups every six months and it’s the responsibility of the dentist to check and diagnose oral cancer.

What to do With an Oral Cancer Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose

With oral cancer being a possible life and death condition, a dentist may accidently diagnose you with oral cancer when, in reality, you don’t have it. This misdiagnosis causes extreme fear for the patient and their family. The patient will likely undergo unnecessary oral cancer treatment that can lead to other oral health issues. If the patient did have an oral health condition that was misdiagnosed as cancer, the underlying root source and cause either won’t be treated or won’t be effectively treated. Besides undue fear and anxiety, the patient will potentially undergo expensive, unnecessary, ineffective dental treatment.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is the dentist who fails to check and diagnose oral cancer. A dentist has the responsibility to care for his or patients’ oral health. If  a dentist fails to deliver this, they may likely have done malpractice. As mentioned earlier, oral cancer doesn’t need a lot of time to grow and progress, making six-month check-ups important. The chances of a patient succumbing to oral cancer increases the longer the condition is ignored and not treated. Only early diagnosis and prompt treatment is the most effective treatment for oral cancer. If the dentist fails to check for oral cancer or ignores the symptoms, the patient won’t know they have oral cancer and will subsequently not seek out vital, proactive treatment.

Both these scenarios puts undue hardship and additional treatment onto the patient, making them potential dental malpractice.

What Qualifies as a Dental Malpractice Claim?

Before you go and bring a case against your dentist for either failing to diagnose your oral cancer or misdiagnosing your oral cancer, there are some requirements that must be met to give your case validity. The lawyers and attorneys at Chianese & Reilly Law can help and discuss your case with a free consultation. We’ll walk you through the litigation process and help you determine whether your case qualifies to be pursued. In general, a valid dental malpractice case will satisfy the following requirements:

  1. Establish a dentist/patient relationship
  2. The existence of appropriate standard of care under similar circumstances
  3. Evidence of and reasons why and how the standard of care was breached
  4. Evidence that the breach in the standard of care caused intensive physical, emotional or psychological harm to the patient

It is important to note that all four of these criteria need to be met for a patient to successfully sue their dentist for dental malpractice.

Whether you or a loved one has suffered from an oral cancer misdiagnosis or a missed oral cancer diagnosis, contact us at Chianese and Reilly Law today. Oral cancer is nothing to take lightly as it can be a matter of life and death. Our New Your dental malpractice lawyers have many years of experience successfully representing dental patients who have been wronged by their dentist.