Former patient Harry Berkowitz asked for compensatory damages from his dentist Dr. Dennis Miller (D.D.S) for his failure in diagnosing the periodontal disease that was silently progressing for years and ultimately destroying his teeth.
WorldDental.org reports that Berkowitz, who was a steady patient of Dr. Miller, always maintained regular dental checkups. It was at just one of these regular check-ups in 2009 where Berkowtiz learned from his Physician that he would need extensive root canal therapy. Since this seemed out of the ordinary from his usual dental treatments, Berkowitz decided to obtain a second opinion with another dentist.
The second dentist told Harry Berkowitz that he was apparently suffering from a severe periodontal disease that was badly affecting all his upper teeth. He was referred to a periodontist who extracted all but two of his upper teeth and then replaced them with permanent bridges and dental implants.
In his legal claim against his regular dentist, Mr. Berkowitz stated he was never asked for an x-ray examination to diagnose the periodontal disease that claimed most of his upper teeth. Dr. Miller countered this allegation by stating that he had suggested several treatment options to Berkowitz over the 20 years he was his patient, but Berkowitz declined some of the doctor’s treatment suggestions by insisting that full dental care would be too expensive.
The malpractice case was settled in the amount of $200,000.
When I first started as a dental management consultant — over 20 years ago — attorneys were attending seminars on how to sue dentists for periodontal neglect. And of course I had one of my doctors sued for this. The case was dismissed when we presented the scheduling book (yes a real hard copy book) showing the patient had missed or no-showed for continuing care appointments eleven times in a two-year period.
The issue was documentation of the patients failure to accept and complete treatment. Your ultimate protection is to dismiss the patient!
How do you screen for periodontitis? What do you do when patients refuse your dental treatment suggestions?
For more on this story see: Matters of the Law: Patient Sues Dentist for Neglect.