Clarify antibiotics rules, says dento-legal expert
Many dental malpractice legal battles could be prevented if rules governing the administration of antibiotics were toughened.
That’s according to a US lawyer who suggests that current guidelines to dentists in the US to only ‘recommend’ antibiotics risks confusion.
Miami personal injury lawyer, Francisco Viñas, says that the guidelines from the American Dental Association (ADA) on antibiotic prophylaxis puts patients at risk of developing dangerous infections as a result of dental procedures.
The result, he says, is that many dentists decline, or simply forget, to prescribe the antibiotics, and preventable infections are then suffered by patients.
Mr Viñas says: ‘Personal injury attorneys are seeing too many patients – typically individuals with heart conditions or artificial joints – who never received antibiotics and developed serious, sometimes life-threatening infections from bacteria in the mouth that enters the bloodstream during dental work.
‘The dentist then says they weren’t required to give the antibiotic, because the rules didn’t say they had to give it, they only said it was “recommended”.
‘This gives the dentist an out, even when the failure to give antibiotics wasn’t the result of careful deliberation but simply a mistake.’
The ADA guidelines do make clear which groups of dental patients are at risk for these infections, which can develop in the heart or at the site of an artificial joint.
These include individuals with artificial heart valves, certain congenital heart conditions, and a history of infective endocarditis, an infection that strikes the inside of the lining of the heart or the heart valves.
He continues: ‘Even in cases where it is written all over a patient’s chart that they are at risk and should get antibiotics, the dentist can fail to do so and say they didn’t do anything wrong.’