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#1
Old 01-11-2012, 01:05 PM
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My Dentist Screw Up: Understandable, or Incompetent?

One year ago, I needed a filling for a cavity. The cavity was located on the side of a tooth facing another tooth, to it wasn't visible or accessible; the filling had to be drilled through the top of my tooth straight through.

When I went home and brushed my teeth that night, I couldn't floss. The filling was too close to the opposite tooth; I destroyed about 8 feet of floss before I finally got any in.

Two days later, flossing the same awkward way, something snapped. I ended up with a piece of filling in my mouth. I called the dentist for an immediate appointment, assuming my filling had failed.

At this appointment, the dentist looked at my mouth and told me that there was some flash in the filling that I had scraped off. He filed down the filling on the inside tooth a little more, telling me that I should be able to floss now, and that the filling was intact.

One year later, when my bite-wing X-rays came back, there was a great big hole in my teeth. The chuck of filling that came out was, in fact, as substantial portion of the filling. I need to go in for another filing, and in the mean time hope that food stuck in the hole hasn't rotted my tooth from the inside out.


So here is my question. On one hand, I know that fillings are imperfect and dentists are only human. On the other hand, the situation I'm in required a series of screw ups, and I when (Correctly) told my dentist I thought I was missing a chunk of filling, he didn't believe me. Is the chain of events I've described an error that a reasonable dentist could have made? Or is it a warning sign that it's time to get my teeth cleaned elsewhere?

Last edited by Reyemile; 01-11-2012 at 01:06 PM.
#2
Old 01-11-2012, 01:09 PM
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Let's move this over to IMHO.

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#3
Old 01-11-2012, 01:24 PM
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Talk to your dentist about your unhappiness, and find out if he offers a guarantee of his work. My dentist guarantees fillings and sealants for a certain length of time.

If he doesn't offer a guarantee, talk to him (calmly and rationally) about how you're unhappy to have to pay twice for the same work due to his mistake, and ask for him to negotiate a discount for you.

If he won't do either of those things, I'd leave him for a dentist that offers a guarantee.
#4
Old 01-11-2012, 01:26 PM
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Are you sure the filling hasn't come out in the meantime? It's entirely possible that you swallowed it in your sleep or something.

I mean, not that they just fall out or anything, but something else may have happened to your tooth.

Last edited by DiosaBellissima; 01-11-2012 at 01:27 PM.
#5
Old 01-11-2012, 02:11 PM
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I know of a couple of mistakes my dentist has made among the dozen or so people that I know who also see him, over the 30-odd years that I've been going there.

In each case, all followup care on that issue has been free, until the problem was fully resolved. In one instance, this included multiple followup visits, Xrays, procedures, etc.

It was his mistake; he made it right.

In this case, your dentist might not be aware of your issues. You should talk to him about it and see how he responds.

Perhaps there are other factors you aren't aware of. Perhaps he made a mistake. Perhaps it's just one of those things - 99% of the time the filling should have been fine, so he didn't have any reason to think yours wouldn't be.

If it was his mistake, it seems to me to be a fairly reasonable one. Dentists are human, y'know. The true gauge is how he handles it.
#6
Old 01-11-2012, 02:14 PM
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Last year I had a crown done. It was not a good looking crown, it looked more like a piece of gum stuck on my teeth.

I went back and "calmly" registered my complaint. They bent over backwards to replace it with a MUCH better casting. Yeah, I had to sit through two procedures, but in the end I was glad I did go back. Dentists are professionals, but they're people too and make mistakes.
#7
Old 01-11-2012, 02:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Q.N. Jones View Post
Talk to your dentist about your unhappiness, and find out if he offers a guarantee of his work. My dentist guarantees fillings and sealants for a certain length of time.
And a lot of Endodontists(where I live, anyway) will re-do a root canal even 20 or 30 years later if something goes wrong. My Mom had a root canal about 25 years ago and the same doctor just repaired it free of charge recently. My Endodontist told me the same thing.

The initial fee of dental work should cover future visits to check it and repair it. My dentist tells me this if anything happens.
#8
Old 01-11-2012, 02:20 PM
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I'd change dentists.
#9
Old 01-11-2012, 02:26 PM
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I have a different dental situation with my daughter, which may actually be inexperience/malpractice.
She has a very small mouth, and the prescribed treatment was tooth removal - 4 teeth to be exact; 2 upper and 2 lower - to make room for more adult teeth. I can't recall what was removed from the lower, but I do from the upper: her two canines. This resulted, after healing and braces, in a very "flat" look to her smile, rather than the nice outward curve that is normal. In the meantime, we also moved and have a new orthodontist. I've now learned it is actually more common, and the general practice, to remove the first or second bicuspids, which doesn't "flatten" the smile, and leaves a more "natural" look. When someone looks at my daughter now, it registers that something's not "right" but it's elusory to the viewer exactly what it is.
I'm curious if I have a case now to go back to the original dentist for malpractice, since her teeth are essentially ruined for life. The only "fix" now would be to pull two MORE teeth, apply braces to make room for canine-tooth implants, and then install the implants, if that were the choice (it won't be). She will always and forevermore now be "flat-faced," due to the original dentist.

Last edited by DirkGntly; 01-11-2012 at 02:27 PM.
#10
Old 01-11-2012, 03:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DirkGntly View Post
I have a different dental situation with my daughter, which may actually be inexperience/malpractice.
She has a very small mouth, and the prescribed treatment was tooth removal - 4 teeth to be exact; 2 upper and 2 lower - to make room for more adult teeth. I can't recall what was removed from the lower, but I do from the upper: her two canines. This resulted, after healing and braces, in a very "flat" look to her smile, rather than the nice outward curve that is normal. She will always and forevermore now be "flat-faced," due to the original dentist.
The dentist is only concerned with being paid for the removal of the teeth. He could care less about your daughter's flat smile.
#11
Old 01-11-2012, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Mahaloth View Post
And a lot of Endodontists(where I live, anyway) will re-do a root canal even 20 or 30 years later if something goes wrong. My Mom had a root canal about 25 years ago and the same doctor just repaired it free of charge recently. My Endodontist told me the same thing.

The initial fee of dental work should cover future visits to check it and repair it. My dentist tells me this if anything happens.
Endodontists around here are also quite happy to redo the job - but they'll charge you a lot more than the original go-round . I had a root canal 4+ years ago that never did settle down, the endo who did that offered to go back in and re-treat it, for more money than the original.

I wound up putting up with it for 4 years, finally went to a different endo, who did a partial retreatment (for slightly less than a full treatment), decided that wouldn't help, THEN ordered a cone beam X-ray and decided it needed to be approached from the side. This being something he should have ordered FIRST - as it did show something that could not have been treated from above. This cost me more money, and more aggravation, and more time, and more need to have someone drive me to / from the place as I require oral sedation for such sessions.

So I wouldn't be surprised if the OP's dentist does NOT offer to make it right free of charge.

That said: yeah, stuff happens, fillings fail, etc.

We did change dentists precipitously once. My daughter, at age 7, started complaining that her tooth REALLY HURT. We got her in - and found that one of her baby teeth had decayed so badly that it had cracked and abscessed. Poor kid was in pretty major pain. He zapped it with novocaine and had it out in 5 minutes, end of pain, though we did have to have a spacer put in to keep room for the permanent tooth.

Why we left? Well, at her 6 month checkup 4 months earlier, the hygienist noted a suspicious spot, pointed it out to the dentist, and he said "it's nothing". Yep, same tooth. He ignored decay when it could have been treated.

We had him put in the spacer, and went to a different dentist from there on out (one recommended by the hygienist, as it happened).

She ultimately had a fair number of fillings on her baby teeth, as well as several others that had to be extracted (including one that was abscessed but somehow painless). Poor kid had horrible baby teeth.
#12
Old 01-11-2012, 03:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DirkGntly View Post
I have a different dental situation with my daughter, which may actually be inexperience/malpractice.
She has a very small mouth, and the prescribed treatment was tooth removal - 4 teeth to be exact; 2 upper and 2 lower - to make room for more adult teeth. I can't recall what was removed from the lower, but I do from the upper: her two canines. This resulted, after healing and braces, in a very "flat" look to her smile, rather than the nice outward curve that is normal. In the meantime, we also moved and have a new orthodontist. I've now learned it is actually more common, and the general practice, to remove the first or second bicuspids, which doesn't "flatten" the smile, and leaves a more "natural" look. When someone looks at my daughter now, it registers that something's not "right" but it's elusory to the viewer exactly what it is.
I'm curious if I have a case now to go back to the original dentist for malpractice, since her teeth are essentially ruined for life. The only "fix" now would be to pull two MORE teeth, apply braces to make room for canine-tooth implants, and then install the implants, if that were the choice (it won't be). She will always and forevermore now be "flat-faced," due to the original dentist.
Wow. Just wow. Were these permanent teeth?

Did they discuss any kind of palate expanders? Both of my kids required these to make adequate room in their upper jaws, and I assume this can also be done for the lower ones. One of my brothers also had some teeth pulled (not the canines!), 40+ years ago, for orthodontic reasons. Our ortho told me that these days, palate expanders can often eliminate the need for that.
#13
Old 01-11-2012, 03:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DirkGntly View Post
She will always and forevermore now be "flat-faced," due to the original dentist.
Is there some explanation as to why a little bit of bonding material at the edges of the "new" canines cannot be applied and shaped for asthetic reasons? Many people have their teeth "built out" because they don't have a natural "full" smile.

Composite restoration is no big deal and is used to fix these types of cosmetic issues all the time.

Last edited by LurkerInNJ; 01-11-2012 at 03:53 PM.
#14
Old 01-11-2012, 04:04 PM
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I have the same situation with a poorly-affixed crown I got four years ago. Two years ago it fell off and had to be reglued, and a month ago I found out that there's decay underneath the crown, so the decay will have to be drilled away and the crown totally replaced. I no longer live in the same state as the original dentist, so I can't ask for a free or cheap replacement. To top it off, insurance won't cover it because there's a minimum of five years before they'll pay for a crown replacement.
#15
Old 01-11-2012, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Ponch8 View Post
I have the same situation with a poorly-affixed crown I got four years ago. Two years ago it fell off and had to be reglued, and a month ago I found out that there's decay underneath the crown, so the decay will have to be drilled away and the crown totally replaced. I no longer live in the same state as the original dentist, so I can't ask for a free or cheap replacement. To top it off, insurance won't cover it because there's a minimum of five years before they'll pay for a crown replacement.
Sometimes you can appeal that, especially in a situation like this. It's worth a try. And at the very least, if you have an in-network dentist it would at least get the price knocked down to the network fee vs. paying "rack rates".
#16
Old 01-11-2012, 04:28 PM
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I am shocked and appalled at the removal of canine teeth!

It had to be 40 or so years ago. My permanent teeth came in VERY crooked, and one canine was actually out of alignment with the rest of my teeth. It was an upper canine, and it looked like a fang. My parents were told I needed orthodontia. Since they had NO dental insurance, they would have to foot the entire bill.

They weren't too happy.

Daddy was retired Air Force, and he took me out to the dental clinic at our local AF base. The Air Force dentist peeked into my mouth, and obviously saw the problem. Of course, I wouldn't have been able to get any work through the AF clinic, but Daddy just wanted the opinion of a dentist who wasn't shopping for a new car.

Daddy asked him flat out: "Can't you just pull the tooth?"

The AF dentist shook his head. "No. The canine teeth are important to the whole shape of the face. I know it is a huge expense, but if you can do it, orthodontia is really the best solution."

I got braces.


~VOW
#17
Old 01-11-2012, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Mama Zappa View Post
Wow. Just wow. Were these permanent teeth?

Did they discuss any kind of palate expanders? Both of my kids required these to make adequate room in their upper jaws, and I assume this can also be done for the lower ones. One of my brothers also had some teeth pulled (not the canines!), 40+ years ago, for orthodontic reasons. Our ortho told me that these days, palate expanders can often eliminate the need for that.
Yes, these were adult teeth. I can be on-board with the removal of teeth, when a palate expander won't go far enough (this is what we were told)...I just think they chose the wrong teeth to pull!!
#18
Old 01-11-2012, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by GreenElf View Post
The dentist is only concerned with being paid for the removal of the teeth. He could care less about your daughter's flat smile.
Cite? Because that assumption seems completely unjustified.
#19
Old 01-11-2012, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by campp View Post
Last year I had a crown done. It was not a good looking crown, it looked more like a piece of gum stuck on my teeth.<snip>
I'm actually glad to hear about your crown problem - I have four crowns, and three of them are lovely and look just like my real teeth - the fourth is weird and bulbous, and I have never liked it. I'm glad to hear that its possible to get a bad casting - I know they make the crowns from impressions from your own mouth, so I have never understood why this one crown just doesn't feel like it belongs in my mouth.
#20
Old 01-11-2012, 05:43 PM
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His error

I have a ton of dental work to use as experience. Whenever work is completer, the hygienist always runs floss around the tooth to clean it and be sure it can be cleaned properly at home. This procedure has held true over multiple dentists. Failure to do that was error #2. (Error #1 was incorrectly packing the filling to begin with.) Failure #3 was not recognizing the mistake when you told him. "A loss quickly taken is half a gain" said some old financial guru.

The dentist had the tools and expertise to make this situation right on the second visit.
#21
Old 01-11-2012, 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Al Bundy View Post
I have a ton of dental work to use as experience. Whenever work is completer, the hygienist always runs floss around the tooth to clean it and be sure it can be cleaned properly at home. This procedure has held true over multiple dentists. Failure to do that was error #2. (Error #1 was incorrectly packing the filling to begin with.) Failure #3 was not recognizing the mistake when you told him. "A loss quickly taken is half a gain" said some old financial guru.

The dentist had the tools and expertise to make this situation right on the second visit.
Oh, yeah, I forgot to comment on the OP - I agree with this completely. They shouldn't have sent you home with such shoddy work, and I would also change dentists. Fillings is about the simplest things they do, and if they're mucking that up...
#22
Old 01-11-2012, 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by ZenBeam View Post
Cite? Because that assumption seems completely unjustified.
Okay, citation forthcoming as soon as my statement is published in a scientific journal rather than an opinions forum.
#23
Old 01-11-2012, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by GreenElf View Post
Okay, citation forthcoming as soon as my statement is published in a scientific journal rather than an opinions forum.
Heh - it looks like you're fitting in here just fine.
#24
Old 01-11-2012, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by GreenElf View Post
Okay, citation forthcoming as soon as my statement is published in a scientific journal rather than an opinions forum.
So it's unjustified. Got it.
#25
Old 01-11-2012, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Cat Whisperer View Post
I'm actually glad to hear about your crown problem - I have four crowns, and three of them are lovely and look just like my real teeth - the fourth is weird and bulbous, and I have never liked it. I'm glad to hear that its possible to get a bad casting - I know they make the crowns from impressions from your own mouth, so I have never understood why this one crown just doesn't feel like it belongs in my mouth.
Dentists are usually willing to work with you on replacing crowns, since the casting isn't actually done by them, but by another company. So that company has to absorb the cost of that -- the dentist only has to absorb the cost of his work in doing it a second time.

But a really good dentist will actually be the one to notice a bad casting -- they see it before you do, and they see lots of crowns. My dentist once noticed one when installing it, before it was even glued in. He made several tries to adjust it, and then reluctantly told me "I don't think we're going to be able to use this crown, we should send it back to the lab and have them make a new one. But that means you wearing a temporary for 2 more weeks, and then coming back again. Do you want to do that?" And I didn't pay anything more for that additional work. Which seems right to me.
#26
Old 01-11-2012, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by ZenBeam View Post
So it's unjustified. Got it.
Can you provide some evidence to back up your statement?
#27
Old 01-12-2012, 03:48 PM
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Based on the facts presented, this sounds like clear error on the part of the dentist. If s/he refuses to correct the problem for free (or at a heavy discount, say 75%), I would go to another dentist to have the work fixed.

I would also seriously consider suing the original dentist in small claims court for the cost of getting it fixed.
#28
Old 01-12-2012, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by GreenElf View Post
Can you provide some evidence to back up your statement?
Your evasiveness is my cite.
#29
Old 01-13-2012, 04:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Cat Whisperer View Post
Heh - it looks like you're fitting in here just fine.
Only in the sense that there are a lot of other people who won't admit when they messed up and instead attack the person who pointed it out. Either the guy asserted a fact, which he needs to back up, or he just insulted all dentists in a short post that shows almost no thought.

It's not even like he has to cite a journal--he could just provide some sort of anecdote that explains why he distrusts dentists.
#30
Old 01-13-2012, 12:33 PM
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I don't see a screw up by the dentist here (except possibly leaving a little of the filling sticking out so you couldn't floss, which he fixed). If he didn't guarantee the life of the filling, that's the breaks. Although after a year he should offer you some sort of deal on a repair just to promote good will.

IANA dentist, but I have extensive experience being on the recieving end, and I would recommend you have a crown placed on that tooth.
#31
Old 01-13-2012, 12:46 PM
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I think he should have taken an xray of the filled tooth when you went in saying some of the filling fell out. His thinking was probably that a portion of the not visible filling couldn't have fallen out because there is no room between your teeth for this to happen.

When he said to you that it was only flash, if you were certain that there was too much filling for this to be the case, you should have spoken up.
#32
Old 01-13-2012, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by VOW View Post
Daddy asked him flat out: "Can't you just pull the tooth?"

The AF dentist shook his head. "No. The canine teeth are important to the whole shape of the face. I know it is a huge expense, but if you can do it, orthodontia is really the best solution."
Yep, my dentist told me the same when I was a kid and my canine came in on top of my milk tooth, being pushed outwards by the obstructing tooth. I never got orthodontia, but the dentist strongly advised against removing the canine. So now it looks like I have a fang on one side.

That said, I kind of like it. Will make my remains a bit easier to identify.
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