The Anatomy of the Dental Malpractice Suit

Keith P. Felty, JD
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Q: How does a dentist defend allegations of dental malpractice?

A: Just like a dentist must learn basic human anatomy, a lawyer defending a dentist must learn basic foundation of every case–"reasonable" treatment. "Reasonable" treatment is whether the dentist was "responsible" in providing dental treatment. This concept begins with the very first contact the patient has with office staff and continues to the last visit to the office. It is this legal concept that is the genesis of development of a defense strategy.

Judgment of the dentist's conduct is provided by jurors who are dental patients themselves. Jurors use "standard of care" to determine if "reasonable" treatment was provided to the patient. A good defense strategy is built on asking jurors a simple question, "Is the care that was provided the kind of care you would want at a dentist's office?" If a jury answers yes to that question, it will answer no to the question of negligence.