Why Are Dental Negligence Claims Rising

Why Are Dental Negligence Claims Rising

A Shortage Of NHS Dentists Is Increasing The Risk Of Dental Negligence Occurring.

Earlier this year the Liberal Democrats accused the British Government of being “asleep at the wheel” concerning what has been described as a “dentist shortage crisis”. Thousands of people, especially in rural areas, are reported to be struggling to get an NHS dental appointment as clinics close their practices to new patients. 

The option to pay privately is still available of course, but as the cost of living crisis deepens private dental care is a luxury many simply cannot contemplate. Not only has the shortage of NHS dentists resulted in some people risking their health and ability to nourish themselves by resorting to DIY treatment, but the unrelenting pressure on existing dentists may also be causing the rise in dental negligence claims.

According to the British Dental Journal, clinical negligence claims against NHS hospitals for dental disasters are increasing. Research showed that:

  • Between April 2015 and April 2020, there were 492 dental negligence claims, resulting in compensation awards of £14 million.
  • Almost £4 million went into compensating NHS patients for delays in treatment.
  • £2.4 million was awarded to people left with nerve damage after an operation.
  • There were 33 cases involving surgeons accidentally removing the wrong tooth.

Reading these grim statistics may cause you to wonder a) what has happened to result in this increase in negligence claims and b) where have all our dentists gone? The answer to the former is intricately linked to the latter and if, as a country, we do not recruit and retain more dentists, the incidences of negligent misdiagnosis and mistakes will continue to grow.

Why is there a shortage of dentists in England and Wales?

One of the biggest causes of the dental shortage is that many of our current NHS dentists are aged 55 plus, thus approaching retirement age. To add to the problem, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit and retain NHS dentists as many move to the private sector. According to the British Dental Association (BDA), around 3,000 dentists have moved from NHS to private dentistry in the last two years.

Why are dentists leaving the NHS?

Some of the problems we are seeing result from a knock-on effect of the Coronavirus pandemic which led to many people not going to the dentist for at least two years. Dentists are now having to manage patients that have several serious problems concerning their teeth and gums. Increasing numbers of dentists are subsequently suffering from stress and burnout, with many planning to leave the profession. In March 2022, it was reported that 45% of dentists with an NHS contract expected to sell their practice in the next 24 months and almost 50% considered leaving the profession entirely. These projections will lead to fewer dentists dealing with more work, dramatically increasing instances of misdiagnosis and negligent treatment.

What makes the situation we are in worse is that even without the Covid-19 pandemic, the collapse of NHS dentistry was predicted over a decade ago. In 2008, the BDA warned MPs that NHS dentistry was unfit for purpose and desperately needed reforming. Fourteen years later the issues are worse than ever as no decisive action has been taken.

What are the most common examples of dental negligence?

In 2019, the Dental Defence Union (DDU) stated that the five most common dental treatments resulting in compensation claims are:

  • extractions
  • root canal treatments
  • caries and fillings
  • periodontal disease
  • implant treatment

The average dentist can expect to face three compensation claims throughout their career, however, these types of claims are hard to win. This is why it is imperative to instruct an experienced Dental Negligence Solicitor to advise and represent you in a compensation claim.

What should I do if I have received negligent dental treatment?

Negligent dental treatment can cause extraordinary pain and suffering. In addition, if your appearance is negatively affected your confidence and mental health can also deteriorate. Dentists have a duty to act with due care and skill and if your dentist’s negligent acts or omissions have caused you harm you may be entitled to compensation. This compensation can assist with paying for private dental treatment to repair the damage caused and cover medical expenses and loss of income if you have to take time off work. Our intelligent, compassionate Dental Negligence Solicitors will carefully listen to your experience and, if they believe you have a compelling case, robustly advise and represent you, ensuring your best interests are always protected.

Our team has decades of combined experience in successfully advising and representing clients in dental negligence cases. We are sympathetic, understanding, and are here to help you every step of the way.

Call us on 03300 534 040 or email us today to discuss your claim.


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