'Dentist to stars' pays $641K in malpractice lawsuit

2009 11 18 10 18 09 377 Gavel 70

A prominent cosmetic dentist in California whose ads boast of treating movie stars and sports celebrities has paid a $641,542 award in a malpractice lawsuit, one of six such lawsuits filed against her in nine years.

Newport Beach dentist Sherri Worth, DDS, paid the award following an arbitrator's finding that she did excessive preparation of 22 teeth, plus laser surgery, during a two-hour and 40-minute procedure on March, 5, 2009. As a result, the patient, Ingrid Valdez, suffered irreversible pulpitis and nerve damage which required several root canals.

“This pattern of prevarication was repeated continually throughout Dr. Worth's testimony.”
— Joseph Thielen, arbitrator

"She went too fast and too deep and removed too much gum tissue without removing bone, which is needed to treat a 'gummy smile' for a crown lengthening procedure," Valdez's attorney, Edwin Zinman, DDS, a San Francisco attorney who specializes in dental law, told DrBicuspid.com. "She should have referred her to a periodontist before doing the prep work."

Several dentists testified in hearings that Dr. Worth had violated the biologic width of Valdez's gums during laser surgery and did overcontoured restorations that resulted in gross malocclusions that could not be corrected by adjustment. They also testified that Dr. Worth's dental work needed to be removed, the crowns lengthened, and new restorations placed.

The award was one of the largest decisions involving crowns, veneers, and bridges, according to Dr. Zinman.

Dr. Worth did not respond to calls for comment.

Evidence destroyed

The arbitrator concluded that Valdez's dental charts had been rewritten, evidence had been destroyed, and Dr. Worth's testimony was not believable.

"This pattern of prevarication was repeated continually throughout Dr. Worth's testimony," arbitrator Joseph Thielen wrote in his February ruling.

Barry Cosgrove, Valdez's husband, said Dr. Worth offered to settle the case before it went to court, but Cosgrove wanted a public record of the findings.

After Valdez requested a copy of her chart, Dr. Worth said she mailed it but Valdez never received it. Dr. Worth testified that she stored Valdez's study models in her garage but threw them away after the area was flooded, although she conceded they would not have been damaged by water.

Valdez's records appeared to have been rewritten, the arbitrator said. And a few days before they were to be examined, Dr. Worth said she spilled Diet Coke on them, and the spill somehow penetrated 20 pages, preventing a definitive determination, according to court records. "This contrived explanation defies believability, especially as it comes a few days prior to the questioned document examination," arbitrator Thielen wrote.

Dr. Worth's hygienist testified that chart notes from the lengthy March 5th procedure were not part of the chart when she treated Valdez.

Not the first

Orange County court records show that six patients have filed malpractice and negligence cases against Dr. Worth since 2003. The Dental Board of California shows a malpractice judgment against her but no disciplines.

The California Dental Association has a peer-review process to investigate complaints, but their determinations are confidential. When complaints are found to be valid, the dentist is required to refund the patient's money, said spokeswoman Alicia Malaby. In 2011, there were 222 peer-reviewed cases, half of which were found in favor of the patient, she said.

Cosgrove said his wife has suffered months of "intractable pain and suffering" because of Dr. Worth and still needs more work.

Irvine, CA, dentist Frank Stone, DDS, one of the dentists Valdez was referred to, testified that all of Dr. Worth's restorations were either overcontoured, invading the biological space, or had gaps between the tooth and the restoration. All of Dr. Worth's work had to be removed to restore Valdez's mouth to normal function, according to the court record.

Newport Beach prosthodontist David Eggleston, DDS, testified that the excessive preparation of the teeth in a short period of time caused overheating of the pulp, resulting in pulpitis and the need for root canal therapy. He also disputed Dr. Worth's diagnosis that Valdez's teeth had 50 surfaces of decay and 81 surfaces of tooth fractures.

"The x-rays and photographs indicated there were two cavities and one shallow tooth fracture," Dr. Eggleston told DrBicuspid.com.

Dr. Worth also told Valdez that 11 of her teeth were worn in half, but Dr. Eggleston said the teeth had normal amounts of wear and were of normal length.

Cosgrove said part of the reason they chose Dr. Worth was her extensive ads listing the many celebrities she has treated, the TV shows she's appeared on, and the magazines that have written about her.

"People make the same mistake we made: They figure if celebrities go there it must be good and you fall for her marketing," he said. "In my opinion, the woman is dangerous for consumers. I advise people to get a couple of opinions and ask around, because she's notorious in the local dental community."

Page 1 of 13
Next Page