Nobody likes going to the dentist, but everyone knows you have to go regularly to keep your teeth and mouth healthy and pain-free. However, sometimes, a dentist can make a mistake or provide poor treatment and, as a result, you can suffer pain and discomfort which may need further dental treatment to put right.
This pain and discomfort can be serious and significant and this can often cause psychological trauma and upset. If this has been caused by the negligent action or inaction of your dentist, you may be able to make a claim for compensation against the dentist.
A dentist can be negligent in various ways, ranging from removing the wrong tooth to providing incorrect or sub-standard treatment (for example, in relation to root canal treatment, implants, crowns, bridges etc) to failing (or taking too long) to diagnose illnesses or conditions (for example, gum disease, tooth decay, nerve damage or even cancer). These are just a few examples of dental negligence and if these don’t quite fit with what has happened to you, you may still be able to make a claim.
If you think you have a claim against your dentist, contact us on 0161 749 9000 as soon as possible to discuss the matter and we can advise you as to whether you are able to make a claim.
Why would I make a claim?
The aim of any claim for compensation for injuries is to put you back in the position you were before the negligent act. Obviously, it is not possible to turn back time so that your pain and suffering never happened. However, as part of the claim, we can arrange any dental treatment that is needed to put right the negligent act. The cost of this treatment will be included with the claim.
In addition, although the claim is not made for financial gain, it will also provide you with compensation for your pain and suffering and trauma.
The claim will also act as a learning experience for the dentist and will help to ensure that certain standards of care are met in the future. This may mean that other people do not suffer as a result of the same negligent acts by the dentist.
How long do I have to make a claim against my dentist?
As with most claims for injuries, you have a period of three years to make your claim either from the date of the negligent act or the date you became aware that the negligent act caused your pain and suffering. Therefore, even if the negligent act of the dentist was more than 3 years ago, if you were not aware this caused your pain and discomfort, you may still be able to make a claim.
If the case has not settled or court proceedings have not been issued within this 3-year period, you will not be able to make a claim for compensation. Therefore, it is vital that you seek legal advice as soon as possible so that every step can be taken to protect your position.
Will the claim be made against my dentist?
The General Dental Council (GDC), which regulates dentists, requires all dentists to be insured to cover claims for negligence made against them (although this is not a legal requirement). Therefore, if the Dentist is working in private practice, the claim will most likely be made against the Dentist’s insurance company rather than the Dentist themselves or the NHS.
However, some Dentists will work for the NHS and if the claim is against one of these, the claim will be handled by NHS Resolution i.e. the body that deals with negligence claims against the NHS.
What do I need to prove to make a claim?
The dentist owes you a duty of care as the patient. To make a claim against the dentist, you will need to prove that the dentist breached that duty i.e. the treatment you received fell below the reasonable standard of care you can expect to receive from a reasonably competent dentist.
If it is proven that there has been a breach of duty, you will then need to prove that this breach caused pain and suffering and losses. This will be proven by medical evidence i.e. either on the basis of your medical records and/or the report of an independent dentist. We will obtain this evidence for you.
What is the process for making a claim?
The claim process starts with a telephone call with us. We will discuss what has happened with you and, on the basis of the information you provide, we will provide an initial assessment of your case and advise you as to the prospects of success, your options as to funding and the steps required to progress the case.
We will then obtain your medical records. We will obtain these from your dentist and, if necessary, from your GP and/or any hospital you attended in relation to the issue. When we have obtained your records (which can sometimes be a lengthy process) we will review them and, on the basis of this review, we will advise you again as to the prospects of success of the case.
If the case has reasonable prospects of success, we will instruct a medical expert i.e. an independent dentist, to review the records and prepare a report to confirm whether the dental treatment you have received was negligent. We will, of course, discuss this report with you and, again, discuss the prospects of success of the case. If possible at this stage, we will also discuss with you the further treatment you will need and the potential value of the claim.
N.B. It may be necessary for you to attend an examination with the independent dentist in order that he/she may confirm their opinion. If an examination is needed, we will arrange it at a time and location that is convenient for you.
When the medical records and report have been obtained, we will re-assess your case and advise you accordingly. We will then submit the evidence in support of the case to the dentist’s insurance company or NHS Resolution together with a Letter of Claim. The Letter of Claim sets out the allegations against the dentist on the basis of the evidence.
The dentist’s insurance company or NHS Resolution will then investigate the claim and provide a response to the allegations. This response should be provided within four months of the Letter of Claim.
At that stage, the dentist’s insurance company or NHS Resolution may admit the dentist was at fault, in which case settlement negotiations can begin to conclude the case. However, it may be denied that the dentist was at fault or it may not be possible to agree reasonable settlement proposals in which case it may be necessary to issue court proceedings to allow the court to assess your case.
We will guide you and assist you at each step of the process and we will be available for any questions or concerns you may have.
What can I claim for?
The compensation you receive as a result of a claim against a dentist will have three main elements:
i. An award for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (i.e. the effect of the pain and suffering on your life)
ii. Past expenses i.e. medical treatment costs and expenses, including travel and medication costs, lost earnings etc caused as a result of the dentist’s negligence;
iii. Future expenses i.e. medical treatment costs to put right the negligent act and/or to maintain the treatment, the cost of any counseling in relation to a psychological injury caused by the negligent act, travel and medication costs, lost earnings etc caused as a result of the dentist’s negligence
How much is my claim worth?
The claim for your injuries and the impact of them on your life will be valued on the basis of the evidence i.e. the medical records and report, using guidelines set by the court. Therefore, it is not possible to provide a valuation of the claim without the evidence and any attempt to do so would only be a guess. We would prefer to advise you about the value of the claim only after the evidence has been obtained.
However, the cost of any financial losses i.e. the treatment you have received and will need to receive in the future and the expenses you have incurred or will need to incur, will be included with the claim on the basis of the expert’s report and/or documents provided by you.
How long will my claim take?
It is difficult to be precise about how long a claim will take because every case is different and will involve its own specific issues. In order to deal with your case correctly we must obtain all of the relevant evidence in support, assess that evidence and then advise you fully at all stages. This process may take some time, but we must ensure that you receive the correct level of compensation and treatment(s) that you deserve and need.
As a general rule, we would aim to conclude a case for dental negligence within 12 – 18 months, but depending on the specific issues of the case, it may settle sooner than 12 months or it may take longer than 18 months.
Can I carry on using my dentist after making a claim or do I need to find a new dentist?
You can carry on using your dentist both during the claim and after it has finished. However, often a person will not feel comfortable continuing to use the dentist that has provided poor treatment which has caused them pain and trauma. Therefore, if you wish to transfer to another dentist, you are allowed to do this.
Here is a link to the NHS website that discusses how to find a dentist near to your home or work and a list of all available dentists:
If you cannot find an NHS dentist that is convenient for you or that can accept you, it is an option for you to pay for your dental treatment privately.
You should always ensure that any dentist you use i.e. with the NHS or privately, is registered with the General Dental Council (GDC). Here is a link to the website for the GDC which has all the registered dentists:
If you or a family member or a friend has suffered pain, suffering and trauma as a result of dental treatment, call us now on 0161 749 9000 for a free, no-obligations initial assessment of the case by one of our lawyers. We will advise you as to whether you may have claim and discuss with you in details the process of making a claim and your funding options. (It is likely we will be able to conduct your case on the basis of a Conditional Fee Agreement i.e. a No-Win, No-Fee agreement.)
Claire Taylor, Leech & Co’s Head of Personal Injury, had a claim for dental negligence following poor dental treatment. Below is a brief description of Claire’s case:
In October 2010, Claire was suffering from severe pain in her LL6 tooth. Following a discussion with her dentist, Claire decided to have root canal treatment rather than have the tooth extracted. In September 2013, Claire again attended the dentist with pain in the same tooth. The dentist advised her that there was some tooth decay, but no treatment was required at that time. In November 2013, Claire returned to the dentist because the same tooth had now become sensitive to hot and cold. The dentist again advised no treatment was required at that time. In February 2014, Claire returned to the dentist and was again given the same advice.
However, in October 2014, Claire again returned to the dentist with issues with the same tooth. Claire was examined again and this time was told the tooth was severely damaged. The dentist advised Claire to undergo conservative treatment i.e. anti-biotics for an infection in the gum. Claire attended the dentist several times over the next 12 months and the dentist observed the tooth, but did not provide treatment.
In November 2015, the dentist noticed that the tooth had deteriorated significantly and Claire was advised that the treatment options were a root canal or an extraction. Claire opted to have the tooth extracted and this was carried out immediately.
In December 2015, Claire was told by the dentist that the original root canal treatment had failed and this had caused the problems all along.
Claire made a claim against the dentist and following an examination with an independent dentist, including a full review of her medical records, and following settlement negotiations, Claire was awarded the sum of £4,000.00 for her pain and suffering.