Your teeth and your smile may be very important to you, and keeping them looking and feeling healthy is part of your everyday routine, but even if you are as careful with your dental hygiene as possible, dental negligence can have a heavy impact on your health and happiness. In fact, the extent of dental negligence can actually go deeper than the roots of your teeth, because any sort of catastrophic clinical negligence can negatively affect your health.
When looking at dental negligence claims there are three factors to take into consideration:-
- Injuries directly caused by a dental practitioner
- Injuries made worse by a dental practitioner
- Injuries/conditions which were overlooked/missed by a dental practitioner
Regular check-ups are an integral part of the dental sector in the UK. They act as an early warning system for a variety of dental issues (and sometimes non-dental issues) that may require immediate treatment or long-term monitoring. As a consequence, it is the responsibility of dental practices and individuals to ensure that they make and attend regular check-up appointments.
Who Is Responsible For Cancelled Dental Check-Ups?
The law is very simple when it comes to cancelled dental check-ups. If the dental practice/dental practitioner can prove that they acted in a “reasonable manner” they are covered as far as the law is concerned.
Common Types Of Dental Negligence Claims
If you receive negligent dental treatment, or injuries/conditions are missed, you may well be able to make a dental negligence claim for compensation. Some of the more common types of dental negligence claims include:
Dental check-ups and dental treatment can very often help to identify more serious medical conditions. For example, oral cancer can be diagnosed by your dentist at which point you would be referred for cancer treatment.
There are numerous issues that should be noticed by a dental practitioner. A delay or an incorrect diagnosis can in some cases prove fatal. This is one of the more common reasons for dental negligence claims.
Some dental treatments carry a higher degree of risk than others. All patients must be made aware of any excess risk. One issue which seems to occur on a relatively regular basis is nerve damage. This can lead to a lack of feeling in areas of your mouth or in some cases a “frozen feeling” in the cheek, nose, and mouth areas. If you can prove that your dental practitioner had been negligent with your treatment, leading to nerve damage, you may receive significant compensation.
Cosmetic Dentistry Negligence
Historically there have been issues with regards to the experience and the qualifications associated with some cosmetic dental practitioners. These issues have been tightened in recent years, with new regulations, but unfortunately, there are still far too many cosmetic dentistry claims for negligence. Any type of dental treatment carries a degree of risk. However, this does not protect against negligent treatment which can lead to a whole array of long-term issues.
In the past, we have seen many people seeking cosmetic dental treatment overseas. This can be very dangerous because regulations and patient protection can vary significantly. Many people have found that they have limited if any protection from negligent treatment by overseas dental practitioners. Indeed, some of the required remedial work can be more expensive and more complicated than the original treatment. Be very wary of seeking cosmetic dental treatment overseas.
Substandard Remedial Treatment
Due to the complicated nature of dental treatment, from time to time there will be issues that are sometimes unavoidable. For example, this may involve an infection acquired during treatment. If caught quickly and treated correctly, this type of issue is often very simple to treat. Unfortunately, due to a mixture of misdiagnosis, failure to act promptly, and sometimes additional negligent treatment, remedial work can sometimes make an initial problem even worse. As a consequence, you may well have grounds for making a dental negligence claim.
Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)
While the vast majority of people will experience periodontal disease (gum disease) at some stage in their life, it does require prompt and often long-term treatment. There have been numerous occasions where obvious cases of gum disease have been missed. As the gums play a major role in holding your teeth in place, it is not difficult to see the worst-case scenario. On the flip side of the coin, the patient also has a role to play in combating gum disease. They will need to ensure correct and regular brushing of their teeth and flossing – if required.
Loss Of Teeth Leading To Dentures
While it is safe to say that the dentures (and dental plates) available today, are very different from those from yesteryear, they can still be traumatic for many people. Loss of teeth as a consequence of negligent dental treatment can attract significant compensation. Aside from the fact that the victim would likely be required to wear dentures for the rest of their life, the mental strain can be huge. We know that the courts now treat physical and mental injuries on a par.
What Factors Might Impact A Dental Negligence Claim?
When seeking compensation for dental negligence, there are many factors that will be taken into consideration. These include:
If for example, the claimant developed gum disease, leading to loss of teeth, they may have been partially responsible. Dental practitioners have a responsibility to identify dental problems and take action. However, it is also the responsibility of the victim to carry out regular comprehensive brushing and even flossing when required. If the victim is found partially responsible, this can lead to a reduction in compensation.
Your dental history will be taken into account when considering claims of dental negligence. For example, if you were claiming compensation for broken teeth, but you had a history of relatively brittle weak teeth, this could impact the level of compensation awarded. The courts may rule that a history of relatively brittle weak teeth was partially responsible for the injuries received.
Severity Of Your Injuries
The severity of dental injuries can vary enormously and there can sometimes be a knock-on effect, creating other medical/mental issues. For example, a negligent tooth extraction could lead to long-term nerve damage which could impact areas of the face. This could then lead to mental anguish, all of which would be considered when assessing a claim.
Many people automatically assume that dental negligence claims revolve solely around physical injuries, however, the courts consider physical injuries and mental injuries on a par. As a consequence, the overall trauma experienced by a claimant would be taken into account by the court. The dental negligence may have caused a particular injury, but this could lead to a train of events leading to extreme trauma.
When looking at the long-term impact of dental negligence, there are two factors to take into consideration. The degree of pain and suffering as a consequence of the injuries received. Then we have the potential loss of income and expenses incurred.
Making A Dental Negligence Claim
In order to make a dental negligence claim, you will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the treatment you received was substandard. Your evidence might include any of the following:
- Copies of your patient records
- Witness statements
- Evidence of previous negligence by the dental practitioner
- Hygiene issues in the practice
- Failure to explain the potential consequences of treatment
- Photographic evidence of injuries
- Details of medical examination
In reality, a strong claim will be backed up by as much evidence as possible to prove your case. Where you have a strong case, the likelihood is that the dental practice/practitioner would look to settle out of court. Many people find it advantageous to employ the services of a personal injury solicitor. Ours have experience in negotiating settlements and will make the claim on a No Win No Fee basis.
What Compensation Could I Receive For Dental Negligence?
When seeking compensation for dental negligence, there are two types of damages to consider. They are:-
This type of compensation relates to the pain and suffering that you have suffered as a consequence of the injuries received. It will also take into account the short, medium, and long-term impact on your life and your standard of living. The courts tend to base general damage compensation payments on the Judicial College Guidelines. These guidelines take into account historic compensation awards for a variety of different injuries.
There is essentially no upper limit when it comes to special damages as these are in effect reimbursement of historic and future costs relating to injuries received. Some of the more common factors impacting the level of special damages include:-
- Historic loss of earnings
- Future loss of earnings
- Additional expenses/long-term medical treatment required
- Modifications to your home/vehicle
- Rehabilitation expenses
This list is by no means exclusive but it does give you an idea of how special damages can very quickly add up. Imagine if your injuries prevented you from working for the rest of your life. The special damages award would need to take into account future loss of estimated earnings. That could be huge.
Dental Negligence Claims Solicitors
There are many factors to take into consideration if you are looking to pursue compensation for dental negligence. There are risks to any type of medical treatment but dentists have a legal duty of care to their patients. However, if a similarly experienced dental practitioner would have taken the same action as the defendant, this could prevent a ruling of negligence. On the other hand, if the treatment was proved to be negligent/sub-standard, this would support a dental negligence claim and allow the claimant to seek compensation.
If you would like free expert advice on a dental negligence claim, then you can contact us for a free consultation with a specialist solicitor who will advise you of the best route moving forward.
Updated 16th December 2020.