A visit to the dentist can trigger emotions ranging from nervousness to fear. It helps to know that the procedure won’t be felt once given anesthesia. However, most people aren’t aware that they could suffer facial paralysis from dental anesthesia.
Complications of Oral Anesthesia: Facial Nerve Palsy
This type of paralysis occurs in the face, typically on one side. But it’s possible for both sides to be affected if the dentist numbs each side. The symptoms of facial nerve palsy can occur immediately or may be delayed.
When facial paralysis from dental anesthesia happens within minutes, it’s usually caused by accidentally injecting the needle into one or more branches of the nerves. The needle may go directly into a gland or can be administered too far.
If it’s delayed, a common cause is the facial nerve being stretched as a result of prolonging the instrumental opening of the mouth. Symptoms can occur within several hours or days of receiving the anesthesia. Recovery tends to be longer when the effects are delayed — which can be a few days, weeks or even months.
Facial nerve palsy can happen if the dentist fails to monitor the patient properly and continuously. The nerve may have been traumatized by the needle during injection in cases of over-penetration. Another cause of facial paralysis from dental anesthesia is that too much of the anesthetic solution was administered.
Signs and Symptoms of Facial Nerve Palsy
One of the most common signs of facial paralysis from dental anesthesia is generalized weakness and sometimes pain on the affected side of the face. The appearance may be expressionless and flat.
The patient may be unable to close his or her eye, smile or raise the eyebrow. The mouth might droop, just slightly in the corner, or the drooping could be more pronounced. There might also be decreased taste sensation.
While a dentist could detect facial paralysis from anesthesia, it’s best to see a neurologist. This will allow for other neurological disorders to be ruled out.
Treatment of Facial Paralysis from Dental Anesthesia and Medical Malpractice Claims
Not a whole lot can be done for facial paralysis from dental anesthesia other than giving it time. Sometimes medication is prescribed, such as Prednisolone or antiviral drugs. But there is a risk of ophthalmic damage when the eye won’t close, so it may need to be protected with lubricant and an eye patch.
Most people fully recover. For some, recovery can be extremely slow. But there is also the chance that the condition never completely goes away.
The best way to determine if someone has the right to file a claim against the dentist is to seek advice from an attorney. Part of this depends on the outcome of the injury. If it heals within a few hours or even days, it may not warrant pursuing legal action. But if the recovery is prolonged or the condition results in permanent disfigurement, it might make sense to file.
If action is taken, it will need to be proven the dentist’s negligence caused the injury to happen. An attorney can explain the types of medical records and documentation that will be necessary. It may even necessitate turning to a medical expert who can provide testimony.
Then it must be determined the damages that were suffered and the amount of compensation that should be sought. This amount may include additional medical bills and missed time from work. Because the condition can be embarrassing and cause emotional harm, the individual may be compensated for pain and suffering, mental anguish, reduced quality of life, and more.
Medical malpractice cases are often complicated, and there are deadlines for when this type of claim can be filed. So don’t wait to speak with an attorney. Learn what options may be available when it’s believed a dentist’s negligence was the cause of injuries by filling out Gacovino, Lake & Associates’ contact form today.