The plaintiff underwent a root canal procedure in anticipation of a crown and eventual bridge. During the root canal sodium hypochlorite leaked into the plaintiff’s gums destroying tissue in the area of the buccal mucosa and eventually causing nerve damage.
Sodium hypochlorite is used to clean and disinfect the canals of teeth during endodontic procedures. It is caustic and it destroys tissue if it escapes the confines of the tooth.
The plaintiff experienced pain in the buccal mucosa in the area where the defendant dentist was performing the root canal procedure. The defendant stopped the root canal procedure and placed a temporary filling in the tooth when he noticed that a white lesion was forming in the gums. At the time, he was unaware that hypochlorite caused the injury. When the plaintiff returned a week later, however, the defendant saw additional significant tissue damage and concluded that hypochlorite leaked out of the tooth he was working on.
The plaintiff’s oral surgeon expert opined that the hypochlorite leaked from the tooth in one of two ways. First, there was a very small hole near the crown of the tooth that the substance could have escaped from. Second, the dentist could have caused a small hole in the root of the tooth he was working on when he was attempting to file down the canal. During discovery, the defendant indicated that he did not utilize a dental damn during root canal procedures. This could have allowed the hypochlorite that leaked out of the hole near the crown of the tooth to travel down to the buccal mucosa.
As a result of the injury, the plaintiff has a permanent sensation of numbness in his lower lip. The case settled after it was assigned to trial in Bergen County, New Jersey.