What Are The Different Types Of Dental Negligence

What Are The Different Types Of Dental Negligence

Dental care is an integral part of maintaining overall health and well-being. However, it is safe to say that at present, dental care in England is far from satisfactory.

In 2022, the BBC reported that nine out of ten NHS dental practices across the UK are not accepting new adult patients for treatment and eight out of ten were not adding any more children onto their books.

Labour has promised an extra 700,000 extra dentist appointments and supervised toothbrushing at schools if it is elected in 2024/25. But currently, dentists are under extraordinary pressure, and this can lead to negligent care and mistakes being made.

In this article, we discuss the various types of dental negligence and how you may be able to claim compensation if you are the victim of negligent dental treatment.

The most common types of dental negligence include:

Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis

Dentists are responsible for identifying and treating oral health issues promptly and accurately. When they fail to do so, patients may suffer unnecessary pain and complications, or in the case of failure to diagnose serious conditions such as oral cancer, even death.

Misdiagnosis can lead to incorrect treatments, unnecessary procedures, or a failure to address a problem entirely. Delayed diagnosis, on the other hand, can allow conditions to worsen, potentially leading to more invasive and costly treatment or even permanent damage. For example, in September 2023, a woman was awarded £9,250 after her dentist failed to diagnose periodontal (gum) disease (more on this below). It became so severe that it caused her considerable mental distress as well as discomfort and inconvenience.

Inadequate Treatment Planning

Proper treatment planning is crucial in ensuring that dental procedures are executed effectively and safely. Dental negligence can occur when dentists fail to create thorough and appropriate treatment plans for their patients. This may involve overlooking key factors such as a patient’s medical history, allergies, or pre-existing conditions. Inadequate treatment planning can result in complications during procedures, adverse reactions to medications, and other preventable issues.

Surgical Errors

Surgical procedures in dentistry can range from routine tooth extractions to more complex operations like dental implants and root canals. Dental negligence can manifest in the form of surgical errors, including but not limited to:

  • Nerve damage during extractions or implant placements
  • Inadequate anaesthesia leading to patient discomfort or pain during the procedure.
  • Accidental perforation of the sinus or other adjacent structures.
  • Infections due to improper sterilisation procedures.

Surgical errors can lead to prolonged recovery periods, severe pain, and, in some cases, irreversible damage.

Inadequate hygiene practices

Maintaining strict infection control procedures is vital in a dental setting to prevent the spread of diseases. Negligence in this area can lead to the transmission of infections between patients. Violations may include improper sterilisation of instruments, inadequate hand hygiene, or improper disposal of contaminated materials.

Lack of Informed Consent

Patients have the right to make informed decisions about their dental treatment. Failure to obtain proper informed consent can amount to negligence. Examples include:

  • Not explaining treatment options thoroughly,
  • Failing to highlight potential risks of the treatment being considered, and
  • Being unclear about expected outcomes.

Without informed consent, patients may undergo procedures without fully understanding the consequences or alternatives.

Substandard Cosmetic Restorations and Prosthetics

It is not for nothing that celebrities spend thousands on their smiles. Teeth play a crucial role in our appearance and oral health. Negligent care and treatment involving fillings, crowns, veneers, and bridges can result in:

  • Improper bite alignment.
  • Loose or ill-fitting prosthetics.
  • Infection.
  • Teeth dying or rotting.
  • Extreme pain and discomfort.

Failure to Refer to Specialists

In complex cases, dentists may need to refer patients to specialists such as oral surgeons, orthodontists, or periodontists (who specialise in treating gum disease). Dental negligence may occur when a dentist fails to recognise the need for a specialist referral, leading to inadequate treatment and worsening of the patient’s condition.

Gingivitis (gum disease) is a condition that can be missed by dentists. This can lead to inflammation spreading to ligaments and bones that hold your teeth in place. This is a type of gum disease called periodontitis, which left untreated can lead to serious illness and tooth loss.

Record Keeping and Communication Errors

Accurate record-keeping and communication are vital in ensuring a patient’s history and treatment plan are well-documented and conveyed to relevant healthcare professionals. Negligence can arise when dental professionals fail to maintain comprehensive records or communicate essential information with colleagues or specialists, potentially leading to mismanagement of care.

How can I sue a dentist in the UK?

If you have received what you believe is negligent dental care, you must contact an experienced Dental Negligence Solicitor immediately. This is because under the Limitation Act 1980, there is a three-year time limit for bringing negligence claims. A Dental Negligence Solicitor will carefully listen to your story and advise you as to whether you have a dental negligence claim.

To succeed in a dental negligence claim, you need to prove, on the balance of probabilities that:

  1. The dental professional owed you a duty of care,
  2. They breached that duty, and
  3. This resulted in you suffering damage.

Your Solicitor is likely to instruct a dental expert witness to provide an opinion as to whether negligent treatment caused your injury. By examining images of your mouth and teeth and your medical records, they may also be able to provide a prognosis. This information will be used to assist the Court in deciding whether your dentist is liable for your injury/s and if so, how much compensation should be awarded.

Wrapping up

Negligent dental care can lead to enormous pain and suffering as well as disfigurement. It can also impact your mental health. With the shortage of NHS dentists, claiming dental negligence compensation may provide access to the funds you need to pay for private restorative work and rehabilitation.

You do not have to suffer in silence. An experienced Dental Negligence Solicitor will fight for you to get the compensation you need so you can move on with your life.

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

If you would like to discuss an issue, please get in touch to arrange a free no obligation consultation. We’re available by email or phone.


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