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Dental Negligence Claim

Friday, 17 April 2015 08:05

A recent survey by the Dental Complaints Service, which involved a selection of 2000 adults, found that an enormous 37% had made a complaint to their dental practice. Although a large proportion of these were objections to the fees charged, 14% of complaints related to poor treatment and 13% to unnecessary procedures. While details of how many people pursued a dental negligence claim were not collected, the majority of complainants were not satisfied with the outcome. An additional 26% were dissatisfied with an aspect of dental care, but had felt unable to complain, which indicates that many people may be failing to pursue possible claims against dentists.

Dental negligence is a cause for concern for all of us

Visiting a dentist is already traumatic for some of us and while most procedures are completed without problem, if something goes wrong during treatment, you may be left with lasting damage that compromises your future oral health. This may be due to a misdiagnosis, leading to delayed treatment or the wrong procedure. Alternatively, it may be down to inappropriate treatment, where a problem is unsatisfactorily treated or an injury caused during a procedure. What was initially a small problem may worsen, leading to significant pain and additional complications. When it comes to your dental health, you expect and deserve to receive high quality care. We are now increasingly aware of clinical errors, which are why more of us are making dentist complaints and pursuing claims, as figures from 2013 reveal.

Dental negligence claims continue to rise

According to a report by the Dental Defence Union in 2013, there was a 32% increase in dental compensation claims against their members from the previous year. This increase was not as great as the 44% rise in fitness to practice referrals received by the General Dental Council; though this is a separate issue, some dentists facing dental claims against them, may also face a professional hearing in front of the GDC.

Looking separately at Scotland, dental negligence claims against DDU members rose similarly, though the level of claiming remains far lower than in England and Wales. Commenting in their report on the findings, the DDU denies that standards of care are slipping among dentists, stating that in 70% of claims cases there was no pay out and in 87% of fitness to practice cases there were no sanctions.

The most common dental negligence claims

With rates of dental claims increasing, statistics show that the most common problems that dental negligence solicitors help with are listed below:

  • Gum disease: If you attended regular dental check-ups, but gum disease wasn't spotted or wasn't treated appropriately, you may be entitled to dental compensation if it impacted upon your long-term oral health, as this condition is neither easy nor cheap to treat once it has set in.
  • Tooth extraction: Having one or more teeth removed is already a painful experience, but if tooth extraction damaged nearby teeth, your gums or nerves to such an extent that you required further treatment to correct the damage, or correction has not been possible, a claim may be successful. Removal of the wrong tooth, requiring a replacement, is also grounds for likely compensation.
  • Cosmetic dentistry: If you received poor quality treatment fitting a bridge, crown, implant or veneer, causing significant pain, avoidable tooth loss or necessitating further treatment, you may be entitled to claim.
  • Root canal: Poor procedure during a root canal, where the root is not completely filled or damaged is sustained to other nerves or teeth may also be grounds for a claim.
  • Poor communication of available treatments: While you want to receive the treatment that offers best results, it's nice to know all the options, particularly when there is a significant difference in costs or the risks associated with treatment. If the range of dental treatments available was not properly explained to you and you were told that just a single option was available, when in fact there were several, compensation may be justified.

You place your complete trust in dentists and their assistants, so poor decision-making and substandard treatment is not acceptable. Whether this dental negligence occurs because dental staff are inexperienced or over-worked, or for any other reason, dentists need to be held accountable when they make a mistake and you deserve more than simply an apology. This is why dental negligence claims have their place and if you feel that you have been subject to misdiagnosis or inappropriate treatment, you need to join those people who have already lodged dental complaints and followed these up with a claim.

At Dental Accident Helpline we want to make sure you have maximum support in taking your claim to court. For advice now about your claim ring 0330 223 2697 or fill in our online compensation form.

Dental Negligence Claim – Unnecessary Extraction of Wisdom Teeth

Thursday, 19 March 2015 08:13

If problematic wisdom teeth are not extracted, complications such as impaction, infections and crowding of the remaining teeth can occur. However, the procedure is itself not without risks and poor dental practice increases the risk of problems following extraction. One of the most common complaints against dentists following extraction of wisdom teeth is nerve damage, which, as shown in this dental negligence case study, can lead to lasting symptoms that can have a significant impact on someone's life.

Unnecessary extraction of wisdom teeth – case study

In this case, the client was advised to have all of her wisdom teeth extracted. This in itself was an unusual suggestion, as the four teeth had not caused her any problems since they appeared a number of years previously. The lady attended her usual dental practice to have her wisdom teeth extracted while she was under sedation, though the procedure lasted longer than it usually would and when she regained consciousness she was in significant pain.

The first signs of nerve damage

The following week the patient returned for the removal of stitches from her jaw. At this appointment she alerted the dental staff to numbness around the right edge of her tongue. After two months there was no improvement and she also developed a tingling sensation. As a result, the lady was referred to a dental hospital to determine whether she had sustained damage to the nerves of her tongue.

Based on the findings she was advised that exploratory surgery to find the nerve endings may not be successful and that she most likely would not regain normal sensation in her mouth, particularly if any further surgery was attempted. As a result, the lady decided against the exploratory procedure.

Loss of taste, speech and an unquenchable thirst

As predicted her symptoms didn't improve and actually worsened in the three years following the extraction, losing complete sensation along the right side of her mouth. The lady's tongue felt permanently swollen and she always felt thirsty. Her speech also suffered as a result of the dental malpractice, now finding it troublesome to pronounce some words; unsurprisingly she felt self-conscious and less confident, making her reluctant to speak.

Additionally, the sensation of taste was greatly reduced, so the majority of food and drink items now seem as if they have no flavour and she can only taste spicy foods.

A dental negligence claim is made

The lady investigated the dental complaints procedure at her practice. However, as a result of these lasting effects and the impact they had on her life, she decided to pursue a dental malpractice claim. Seeking the advice of a dental negligence team, they reviewed her dental records and were confident that there was sufficient evidence to support a successful claim. They instructed an independent dental expert to compile a report detailing the substandard care she had received and how this directly led to the nerve damage she sustained.
After compiling this information, a letter was sent to the dentist and practice in question to provide details of the allegations of dental negligence and the claim. This was sent before starting legal proceedings to allow the dental surgery time to investigate the occurrence and inform the clinical negligence solicitors whether they would settle the claim or provide their own evidence to contest the case.

Receipt of £19,000 compensation

After the dental practice was informed of the details surrounding the claim, the lady was referred for an independent assessment of the damage she sustained following removal of her wisdom teeth and the long-term impact of this. The examination didn't just consider the physical impacts suffered by the lady, but the wider consequences on her working and social life.

This detailed report provided the information needed to make an assessment of the level of dental negligence compensation available to her. Once this payment was decided, the dentist was invited to offer compensation. After admitting liability and taking part in negotiations, dental compensation of £19,000 was secured for the lady.

Although it was possible to settle this dental negligence claim out of court, not all claimants receive their compensation so easily. When the dental staff will not admit liability or the compensation they offer is not considered satisfactory, court proceedings are necessary, sometimes taking two to three years in all to reach a satisfactory settlement in more complex cases.

At Dental Accident Helpline we want to make sure you have maximum support in taking your claim to court. For advice now about your claim ring 0330 223 2697 or fill in our online compensation form.

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The Dental Accident Helpline provides specialist high quality legal representation for dental patients wishing to claim dental negligence compensation.