Dentistry is one of the most demanding and meticulous of therapies. It requires a skill and care coupled with a steady hand, good quality x-rays and accurate communication between dentist and patient as to what the patient needs or wants. Dental negligence can occur in many different ways including the failure to recognize a problem, leaving it untreated and thereby causing the problem to worsen over time. It can also occur in "over treating" of a "problem" that does not exist and treating it unnecessarily. It can also occur when the patient receives a dental device like a crown or veneers with an unacceptable aesthetic outcome which is probably the most common type of dental neglect because it depends on the skill of the dentist in achieving the patients desires.
Our solicitors deal with dental negligence claims. We work to get you the highest compensation possible. Whether you win or lose the case, you will not have to pay any legal fees. If you should lose the claim, then you will not be liable for the costs of the other side. Legal Aid may also be possible in the case of children or those on benefits.
If you believe that you have a claim relating to dental negligence, please contact us right away to speak to one of our dental negligence solicitors, without any charge or further commitment. They can then have a in depth discussion with you about your particular case and will advise you on your options and if your claim is viable, the level of financial award you would be eligible to receive. It is important to be mindful of the fact that there is a limited amount of time in which you can pursue a claim which is three years in the case of adults.
Dental negligence is a type of medical negligence which is a sub-category of the general law of negligence with its own rules, protocols and case law. In order to prove negligence against a dentist it is necessary to show that the dentist owed a duty of care to the patient which is established by way of the normal doctor/patient relationship, thereafter it is necessary to show breach of that duty by establishing that no other group of reasonably competent dentists exercising normal skill and care would have carried out that treatment (which must be logical) and thereafter it must be proved that the injury was as a direct result of the negligent treatment. This means that the mere fact that dental treatment fails does not necessarily mean that the dentists action was negligent even if alternative or more conventional treatment may have succeeded, provided that a body of medical opinion supports the failed treatment.
To make a successful negligence claim, it must be shown that the dentist's treatment was not lower than which is deemed to be an acceptable level. Further, if the dentist had the option of various different treatment methods, as long as there is substantial support for the one decided on, from others in the profession, then your dentist would not be regarded as negligent if the treatment chosen was not successful, even though another choice may have been more beneficial.
Compensation for dental negligence is based on the extent of the injury, the time taken for recovery and whether or not there are any long term consequences. If damages cannot be agreed between solicitors, the assessment of value will be carried out by a judge who will reference representations from both sides solicitors, the amounts awarded in similar previously decided cases and judicial guidelines, all of which may be tempered by the judges previous experience as a practicing lawyer. Claims for compensation for dental negligence are made via a lawyer who is obliged to put forward a medical report which has been drawn up by a specialist consultant dentist qualified in the appropriate field. This is then forwarded to the lawyers who are working for the alleged negligent dentist's insurance company.
If negligence is admitted by the dentist in question, then there is a negotiation between both parties (the solicitor acting for the patient, and the one acting for the dentist's insurance company), on how much the award should be. If however, the dentist denies any wrongdoing, then the matter will be taken to court and will be heard by a judge who ultimately determines liability and any award of compensation.
There are different forms of compensation that can be included in a settlement for personal injury. These include: pain and suffering, loss of income, other expenses and the cost of further dental work to ameliorate the issue.
A dental negligence compensation claim solicitor deals with applications for damages against healthcare professionals for personal injury and loss caused as a result of erroneous clinical treatment or late diagnosis. It is to your advantage, in order to preserve your legal right to compensation, to make contact with a dental negligence solicitor as soon as possible after the event that caused the injury.
Our dental negligence solicitors deal with claims for compensation as a result of neglect by dentists. In most cases we are able to are able to carry out the legal work at no cost to you. You do not have to fund or finance the case as it proceeds. If you would like free advice without any further obligation just call the helpline or complete the contact form or email our offices. A specialist dental negligence solicitor will speak to you over the phone and will advise on liability, the likely amount of the award and on how to best preserve your legal right to claim compensation. There are time limits in all personal injury cases including claims for medical negligence and dental negligence - act now or you may lose the right to claim compensation forever.
Due to the legal time limits which apply to making a personal injury compensation claim you should not delay phoning our dental negligence solicitors. One of our specialist solicitors will discuss your case in detail, without any charge or commitment on your part. If we believe that the claim is viable, you will be given an idea of the potential settlement you could achieve there and then.
People go to the dentist for many reasons, including filling a cavity, to take care of periodontal disease, to take care of a broken tooth, and for other reasons. Most of the time, the dental procedure turns out alright and the patient is left happy with the outcome. Other times, the procedure is not what the patient expected and the outcome is not what the patient expected. Dental patients pay a great deal of money for their care and often must pay out of pocket and the prices are exorbitant.
There are various things that can happen to a person who seeks out dental advice. They could have dental anesthesia that doesnt work or that damages the nerve. Local injection into the nerve can damage the nerve, resulting in permanent numbness to the affected area, which is usually the entire side of the mouth on the upper and lower aspect of the mouth. It can affect chewing, facial sensation and can damage the inside of the mouth due to biting the inside of an anesthetized mouth.
Dental fillings are probably the most minor and simple thing a dentist can do and yet things can go wrong. The dentist does fillings when there is a minor fracture, tooth decay or wear and tear on the tooth. It involves applying composite, metal alloy or porcelain to a tooth to replace areas that are missing due to the above reasons. When composite is used, the substance is put in soft, like putty, and is hardened with a blue hardening light. If it doesn't harden well, it will fall out relatively easily.
The need for a dental fillings is usually identified by x-ray but many can be seen by a trained eye. The tooth is then isolated so no saliva can get into the tooth before the filling is placed. The tooth is drilled with a hand piece or with a laser so that no residual debris or bacteria are left behind. The area is then hollowed out so as to receive the filling. Fillings are often made with composite or with metal amalgam. Some people can become allergic or hypersensitive to metal fillings. The dentist must then polish and shape the filling so that it matches the bite of its opposing tooth.
Fillings are supposed to last about 5 years - 10 years. If your filling doesn't last that long, seek the advice of another dentist to see what went wrong as this could be a case of dental negligence.
Dental crowns are the next step up from getting a filling. A crown is a cap that covers a larger area of tooth missing due to decay and creates a tooth-like cap over a stub of a tooth. It is done when there is a big area of decay or a large fracture on the tooth that can't be filled in with composite. Crowns are made from gold alloy, palladium alloy, or porcelain. They are made by making an impression of the area to be crowned and having a laboratory create the shape of the tooth. It is then cemented into the stub of tooth that remains.
Errors in making and putting in crowns do occur. The tooth can be the wrong size or shape and the bite can be wrong after the crown is applied. If the bite is wrong, you can get wear and tear on the crown or on the opposite tooth, and you can get chronic headaches and grinding of your teeth due to the bad bite. Your dentist, or another dentist, may need to replace the crown with a better one or it may need to be filed down so that your bite is improved.
Porcelain crowns tend to be more attractive looking but may also chip or crack. If your porcelain crown chips or cracks after fewer than five years, seek the advice of another dentist to try and explain why your crown failed before five years as this could represent dental negligence.
Permanent crowns take a week or more to be made in the laboratory; however, once put in, they are designed to last at least 5 to 15 years or more. If it lasts anything less than 5 years, you should have an investigation for dental negligence.
More serious dental problems, such as periodontal or tooth abscesses, need treatment with endodontics, which involves work on the root canals of the teeth. The root canal is the part of the inside of the tooth that carries the nerves and blood vessels of the tooth. If the root canal is infected, the dentist needs to go in and clean out the infection, fill in the root canals with composite mixture and then cover the tooth with a crown for better longevity.
Root canal work or endodontics must be first done by isolating the tooth with a rubber dam. This is so saliva can't get into the pulp and carry bacteria that would ruin the root canal. Dentists who fail to do this step could be considered negligent. After isolating the tooth, each of the root canals is isolated so that they can be enlarged and cleaned out with files and other tools. All of the infection is cleaned out so that you are left with widened root canals that are clean and free of bacteria.
The dentist flushes out the debris in the root canals so that no bacteria or debris is left in the canals before they need to be filled. The canals need to be sterile before they can be filled. Ongoing infection after a root canal may be cause for a negligence claim against the dentist.
The root canal should then be filled with composite material that hardens inside the root canal. The tooth is considered "dead" at that point and needs a crown for maximum longevity. If the dentist fails to put a crown on the tooth, the tooth will fail early and you may need an extraction of that tooth.
Root canals are generally filled with a natural substance called gutta-percha which is elastic and can fill the entire root canal without difficulty. A temporary filling can be placed on the tooth until a crown can be applied to the tooth.
Dental implants can greatly improve the self-esteem of people who have lost teeth due to injury, decay or fracture. The dental implant involves a technique that creates an artificial metal tooth root that eventually bond with bone. The implant is crowned with an artificial tooth that can be safely used for any type of eating.
Errors can happen when putting in a dental implant. For example, the crown can be of the wrong shape or size, making the bite surface incorrect, the implant can perforate the sinus, the implant can fail to bond with the bone and the implant can fail. This can lead to TMJ or temporomandibular joint syndrome, chronic headaches or teeth pain from an abnormal bite. The wear and tear of the real tooth opposite the fake tooth can be increased, resulting in cavities on the opposite tooth or fractures of the opposite tooth.
An implanted tooth can last for a lifetime. If the tooth fails at any point, this could represent negligence on the part of the dentist who put in the tooth. This could mean that the tooth was placed improperly into the jaw.
Orthodontics is another error-prone part of dentistry. Orthodontics is one of two areas of dentistry devoted to cosmetic dentistry. It primarily deals with putting on braces to realign teeth or fixing a patient's jaw so that the bite is aligned better. Many people need an orthodontist as children or teens; however, others use orthodontia as adults to correct problems they've had most of their lives.
Orthodontics can involve the placement of metal brackets on the teeth, which are attached to wires that gradually pull the teeth into their normal position. Braces can involve bottom teeth, top teeth or both types of teeth at the same time. The idea is to improve the bite and to improve the aesthetics of the teeth in general.
The orthodontist can, in some situations, use braces that are clear and fit over the teeth on a temporary basis. Wearers use these braces for several weeks or months before getting fitted with another one that is closer to perfect from the one before. This means that, after a couple of years, the teeth are straightened out. They cannot be used for severe bite problems.
Orthodontists must be careful not to make the problem worse. If the dentist's work causes problems and does not create a decent bite after all you’ve spent on braces, this could constitute negligence.
Other cosmetic dentists put on dental veneers to create a perfect smile. It allows the teeth to be whiter and gets rid of teeth that have gaps or are abnormally shaped. Veneers are cemented onto the teeth which are often only the ones that are seen when someone smiles. Veneers are not usually attached to molars.
Veneers must be cemented on perfectly so the smile is nearly perfect. This means that the size and shape of the veneer must be a perfect match to the ones next to it. Veneers can be too yellow or too white, pointing to the need to talk to the patient to find out what they want and are expecting. If the veneers are not placed on neatly enough, they can look crooked. This constitutes dental negligence and means that the veneers will likely have to be replaced.
Sometimes, a tooth is hopelessly lost and needs to be extracted. Extractions are usually done under local anesthesia and involve pulling out the abnormal tooth and sometimes stitching together the flesh around socket where the tooth pulp and tooth roots used to be. Extractions are often done because of chronic gingivitis or tooth abscess that cannot be fixed with a root canal or with antibiotics. If a tooth is extracted without the patient being given the option of having a crown or a root canal, this is a case of dental negligence and you should get a second opinion if an extraction is automatically recommended.
Extractions should be done with precision so that the entire tooth, including the roots and pulp are removed and protected with stitches over the socket where necessary. If the entire tooth is not removed, it is a negligent phenomenon that requires legal advice.
It is not all that uncommon to have a tooth abscess caused by infection. Bacteria can get in the gum tissue through recessed gums or through dental caries that have penetrated the pulp of the tooth. The infection settles in the deeper tissues and can be seen on x-ray of the affected teeth. A dental abscess is more severe than gingivitis and requires a longer course of antibiotics. If the dentist does not treat the abscess with antibiotics and a root canal, the dentist is committing negligence and you should get a second opinion immediately.
Dental abscesses do not always resolve themselves with antibiotics and root canals. The only other option after that is to extract the tooth, allow the infection to heal, and replace the tooth with a dental implant.
In periodontics, it is the gum tissue that is treated. The dentist must be careful to graft pieces of gingival tissue to other places in the mouth where the root is exposed because of damage to the gums or chronic gingivitis. This is the field of dentistry in which gum tissue that has become hypertrophic is removed so the teeth look longer and leaner. This is a delicate area of dentistry. Failure of a gingival graft to stick to the normal tissue or taking off too much tissue is considered negligent and a second medical opinion or a legal opinion is required.
Some people go to the dentist for cosmetic reasons like dental veneers or dental implants. This can go wrong if the patients expectation of their appearance turns out not to be what it was that they expected. Cosmetic dentistry relies on careful work and knowledge of what looks good on a person so that it has many areas that can go wrong.
What are the common dental procedures?
Dental procedures are done by dentists, dental surgeons or oro-facio maxillary surgeons. These procedures are costly and if not done properly it can lead to damage to teeth and oral tissues. Commonly done dental procedures are;
"Dental extractions" - Removal of teeth from dental socket in alveolar bone.
"Dental filling and repairs" - Removal of decayed portion of the tooth and fill the area with a filler or if a tooth is chipped or cracked, repairing the lost portion with a filler. The most common filling material is amalgam.
"Bonding" - Repairing of teeth which is cracked or decayed with a tooth coloured resin (a durable plastic material). Once this is applied and hardened with a special light, it bonds the resin to the tooth to restore the damaged part.
"Bridging" - A bridge is made by a false tooth which is suspended between two crowns of natural teeth on either side. This is done if a tooth is lost.
"Dental implants" - It is a surgical component that interferes with the jaw bone to support a dental prosthesis. It acts as an orthodontic anchor. Implants are more expensive than bridging or dentures.
"Braces" - Braces align and straighten teeth and support to position them with regard to a persons bite and improving the appearance and smile. Braces are commonly made of metal, ceramic or plastic.
"Crowns or caps" - It is a tooth shaped covering that covers the entire tooth surface and restores its original size and shape, which improves its appearance. Crown is made out of porcelain.
"Dentures" - These are also called false teeth which are prosthetic devices constructed to replace missing teeth. They are supported by surrounding tissues of the oral cavity. While conventional dentures can be removed, nowadays dentures are permanent and non-removable. Dentures are custom made by using impressions from your gums.
"Gum surgery" - Gum surgery is done to reinstate the health of gums. It is also done to improve the smile cosmetically.
"Wisdom tooth removal" - When the wisdom teeth are impacted (emerge at an angle or get stuck), they need to be removed. This is commonly done under general anaesthesia.
"Root canal treatment" - When the nerves and blood vessels at the center of the tooth (root canal) become infected, this is done to remove all infected parts and seal the tooth with a filling or a crown.
"Teeth whitening" - procedures including scaling and polishing are common and popular. Teeth whitening use bleaching to make your teeth look whiter and brighter. Latest procedures like LASER whitening and power whitening are becoming more popular, which comes under cosmetic procedures.
"Dental veneers" - These are new teeth facings which disguise a discoloured tooth. It is made out of porcelain and fitted over the front teeth.
What are dental emergencies?
Dental emergency is serious and it should be attended by a dental professional and treated immediately. If unnecessary delay occurs it can cause permanent damage.
1. Any dental problem that needs immediate treatment in order to save a tooth
2. Excruciating pain which needs to be stopped
3. If there is continuous bleeding from gums and tooth sockets which needs to be stopped immediately
4. If there is severe infection or an abscess in the mouth which can spread leading to septicaemia (Infection in the blood stream), that can be life threatening.
However emergency rooms in many hospitals do not have a dentist as ER staff. After providing adequate pain relief and necessary antibiotics, you may be requested to visit your dentist soon as possible. Ideally each person should have a dentist to go to, in an emergency.
Some examples of dental emergencies are;
Chipped, broken or knocked out teeth due to an accident
Bleeding from lips or tongue following a bad bite
Painful swelling of gums due to an abscess
What are the common types of Dental negligence?
Dental negligence is defined as avoidable injury caused by a dentist who fails to take proper care. It is also called Dental Malpractice. To sue a dentist for dental negligence, you should be able to prove that you suffered an injury as a result of a dentists provision of substandard care, to a jury or a judge.
"Misdiagnosis of certain medical conditions" - Ex: Oral cancer or gum disease may be missed or wrongly diagnosed
"Delayed diagnosis" - sometimes certain medical conditions like oral cancer or gum disease may be diagnosed later than expected. This unnecessary delay or misdiagnosis which delays timely intervention, can lead to spread of disease and even may be life threatening.
"Wrong tooth extraction" - If the dentist is not careful, he or she may remove the wrong tooth by negligence. Although seems silly, this type of things can occur by mistake.
"Non standard" - If the dental procedures are not done in a standard manner, it can result in damage to teeth and gums.
Ex: When fixing crowns, bridges and implants, if standards are poor, it may not fit well and can lead to injury to tissues of oral cavity.
"Unecessary dental procedures" - If a tooth can be saved by filling, the dentist may extract the tooth without attempting a dental filling.
"Dental emergency" - Not attending on time may lead to loss of teeth. If the emergency was dealt on time and in a proper manner, the tooth could have been saved. Failure to provide necessary dental care on time can be taken as dental negligence.
"Infection" - Spread of infection during the procedure due to improper hygienic practices and poor sterilization and disinfection of dental instruments.
"Full disclosure" - before any procedure explanation should be done to the patient regarding the risks and benefits and possible alternative treatments. Sometimes informed written consent should be taken before the procedure. If the risks are explained well, even if a complication occurs, the patient knows that it was possible and he may not take any legal action against the dentist if things go wrong. However if the patient was not explained regarding possible complications he can sue the dentist due to causing dental negligence.