A patient in the United States goes to the dentist for a routine extraction of both bottom wisdom teeth (as explained to him beforehand by the dentist). The patient is put under general anesthesia, wakes up with some gauze in their mouth and are given a prescription for painkillers. The dentist tells the patient that the procedure went exactly as planned, and the patient heals over the next 10 days with no complications.

It can be assumed that the dentist bills the patient (and/or their health insurer) for the procedure as it was described to the patient.

Some time later, the patient visits a different dentist complaining of tooth pain in the back of the mouth, and the new dentist discovers that only one of the wisdom teeth was removed.

Are there any legal grounds for the patient to file suit against their former dentist in this situation?

  • What jurisdiction? Commented May 22, 2017 at 17:35
  • Oh, sorry. United States. Updated the question.
    – user3580
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 18:06

1 Answer 1


This seems to be a case of breach of contract.

The doctor promised to remove both wisdom teeth, and only removed one.

While I believe a patient would succeed in suing the doctor for breach of contract, I am not sure what remedy would be awarded. A court forcing the doctor to finish the operation doesn't sound likely, perhaps damages would be awarded in the form of giving the patient back half of what he paid for the operation

  • 2
    While this probably is a breach of contract, I'd think that medical malpractice would be a much stronger basis for a claim, in jurisdictions where relevant laws exist. Commented May 22, 2017 at 17:35
  • 3
    A damages claim for reimbursement of the cost of the second tooth by the new dentist is a more likely remedy.
    – Dale M
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 20:57
  • It's also a case of fraud, for billing a procedure that wasn't performed.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 16:28

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