Dentist Malpractice: Failing to Sterilize Equipment

Posted December 27, 2011 in Medical Malpractice by Heather Hutchins

Photo courtesy of Maggie Smith.

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld the suspension of a dentist who failed to conduct and record weekly spore testing, which is a method of sterilizing dental instruments.

“Spore testing” involves placing a test strip (or vial) containing spore bacteria in a sterilizer, removing the test strip and allowing it to incubate, and then comparing the results to those for a “control” strip containing the same bacteria but that is not placed in the sterilizer.

Aaron M. Murphy

While you might believe this was an isolated incident, you would be wrong, according to Aaron Murphy.

Dental malpractice is very common,” Murphy says.  “There are two main reasons I see for this.  The first is that the lines between the dental specialties are not as clear as they are in other medical practice areas.  A dentist practicing general dentistry may attempt a procedure that should have been referred out to a specialist (this is where we see the worst cases of malpractice).   The second reason some dentists can get into trouble is for procedures that are not really needed. ” 

Dental Malpractice and negligence can be caused by many causes, such as:

  • Failure to detect an oral disease or malformation
  • Use of defective dental products
  • Injury to oral cavity or surrounding bone structure and tissue
  • Improper use of dental or surgical utensils
  • Wrongful death caused by dental procedure
  • Performing unnecessary procedures

“A patient should always be ready to obtain a second opinion,” he notes.  “A third cause of malpractice is an accident made by the dentist or the staff.  If a dental patient senses that a mistake has been made accidentally, they should immediately seek a second opinion from another dentist or consult with an attorney.”

Murphy’s advice to consumers is simple.

“The ordinary person should have a dentist they trust and maintain a good relationship with,” he explains.  “A patient should listen to their common sense. If they feel uncomfortable with anything a dentist tells them, they should seek a second opinion.  There have been numerous cases where a second opinion from another dentist would have saved my clients time, pain, and money.”

HZ Hutchins is a news reporter for

Chadwick failed to conduct and record weekly spore testing, which is a method of sterilizing dental instruments and ensuring that the sterilizer is working properly.

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