Getting a Refund from a Dentist Who Made a Mistake

I had a tooth that was slanted from thumb sucking. My dentist put a crown on it in order to fix that. A few weeks later, it became sensitive to both hot and cold. The dentist told me this was a normal condition in the first few weeks and my tooth would adjust. I was in pain for months and the side of my face swelled up so much I ended up in the E.R. That was pretty much was useless, because they just charged me a small fortune and told me I needed to see a dentist. I didn’t want to go back to the same dentist, but needed to see someone. I called around to see who else could get me in and one dentist said they kept some room for emergency patients. Thank the heavens for that! They told me the tooth with the crown was infected and I’d need a root canal treatment. I asked them how in the world that could happen and she told me the crown was not put on properly and left open margins. I don’t know what this means. She did try to explain it and showed me the x-ray, but I was so freaking angry at my other dentist that I wasn’t really paying attention after that. She got me out of pain and we scheduled the root canal. I contacted my other dentist trying to recoup the money I’d paid and they said that once the crown is placed I’m responsible for what happened to the tooth. What they heck? They placed it wrong. How can I be responsible for that? Is there any way I can get my money back? I can’t afford random dental procedures?


Dear Nadia,

Man holding his jaw in pain

I’m sorry this happened to you and am frustrated on your behalf! Bear in mind that I have not examined you myself but based on what you’ve described, your dentist owes you that refund.

He violated the standard of care by leaving open margins. After placing the crown, he is supposed to run an explorer around the margins to make sure everything is properly seated for the crown. It sounds like he either didn’t do this or did it and ignored the fact that they were open.

You have a couple of good things going for you here. First, a dentist who is willing to say the first dentist messed up. Second, she took x-rays, which is solid evidence.

One of the problems about this kind of case is there often isn’t enough money involved to make going to court worth it, but you do have some steps you can take to encourage that refund.

First, tell him you will go to the dental board and that you have x-rays to back up your claims. Most dentists want to avoid this. Second, you could ask the new dentist to call your old one. This can be very persuasive. No one likes to look bad in front of their peers. Third, get an attorney to write a threatening letter on an official letterhead. This costs less than an actual lawsuit but can make the dentist think you’re willing to go to court.

You’ve probably already decided this, but if I were in your shoes, I’d switch to the dentist who saw you during your dental emergency from now on. It sounds like you’d get better care there.

This blog is brought to you by Lafayette, LA Dentists Drs. Foreman and Thimmesch.