Two Leeds dentists have agreed a joint £45,000 damages settlement with a patient after their combined poor treatment and errors saw him develop widespread gum disease and bone loss, causing him to spend a year without any teeth on his bottom jaw.
Former teacher John Miles believed his dedication to brushing first thing in a morning and before he went to bed – whilst also regularly attending at his dentist for check-ups – was keeping his oral health in good order.
However, over a 20 year period a dentist allowed his oral health to continually worsen and develop into ‘chronic periodontal disease’ – a situation he says he was never made aware of.
Over the two decades being treated by dentist Tracey Black, of Tracey Black & Associates in St Michael’s Lane, Leeds, he underwent many procedures such as fillings and root canal treatments.
He also had dentures fitted having had several teeth removed over the years, before eventually deciding to see another dentist, Dr Natwarlal Tibrewal of the Genix Healthcare Dental Clinic’s East Park Practice, and later of the Corner House Dental Practice, as he wanted to replace his dentures with implants.
Now, a legal case has highlighted the poor treatment both from Tracey Black and Dr Tibrewal in managing and treating the periodontal disease.
It also claimed the failure of Dr Tibrewal’s to place Mr Miles on a treatment plan to improve his periodontal disease before fitting implants and a bridge amounted to negligent treatment.
Instead, he immediately recommended and carried out procedures to fit seven implants and a bridge, which later had to be removed completely after the implants started to become loose and fail.
It left Mr Miles, a secondary school science teacher at the time, without any teeth on his bottom jaw for a year, and feeling angry and let down by both dentists he had put his faith in.
Patient angry at lack of information and consultation from dentists
Having launched legal action against both dentists through medical negligence claims specialists Hudgell Solicitors, Mr Miles has now received a joint damages settlement of £45,000 and decided to share what happened to him ahead of World Oral Health Awareness Day (Tuesday, March 20).
He feel patients are not given enough information by dentists about managing their oral health, and are not consulted and informed enough over their treatment.
“I feel like I was very badly let down. I was going to a dentist for 20 years completely unaware that my gums were getting into a very poor condition, so much so that my bones were reducing and my teeth were becoming looser and ever more likely to be lost,” he said.
“I had crowns and fillings and every now and then, and I lost the odd tooth, but I didn’t imagine there was any major problem because I was never told there was.
“I’d clean my teeth morning and night and I’d be asked to go and see the hygienist every now and then, but it was never explained to me why this was needed, or what a hygienist did – that importance was never stressed. I would never have imagined that I was any different to most other people.
“I was never told that the gum disease was a major problem and never given any extra advice of how to improve things. That is really frustrating now.”
Dentist’s decision to fit bridge and implants ‘fell well below expected standard of care’
Mr Miles decided to see Dr Tibrewal about replacing his dentures with implants in October 2010, on the recommendation of a friend. He says he never once questioned what the dentist had suggested as the best way forward.
“Dr Tibrewal had been recommended to me by a friend who had implants fitted and to be honest, you simply place your faith in the professionals. They are meant to know what they are doing and are meant to be doing the best for you,” he said.
“It was nothing but pain and problems from the point I had the bridge and implants fitted though. I had problems for three years with pain, fractures and it becoming loose.
“I remember I was teaching my class and all of a sudden an implant just came out in my hand. I held it up to the class. On another occasion I was eating cereal and I heard a crack and that was my lower bridge breaking.
“Dr Tibrewal didn’t know what to do to sort the situation out and claimed he didn’t know why it was so bad. Now I know he had carried out the work when it never should have happened and that my mouth was a mess.
“When I want to see another specialist for a second opinion he looked into my mouth and I could tell by the look on his face that it was bad. He was horrified. He said my mouth was in the top five ‘worst’ for oral hygiene he had ever seen in his career and that there had been no chance at all of the bridge and implants working.”
The dentist who provided the new opinion drew up a treatment plan which included extensive scale and polish work to bring the periodontal disease under control, and included the removal of further teeth.
Mr Miles was finally able to undergo a reconstruction with implants in March 2014, three-and-a-half years after Dr Tibrewal’s failed work.
The remedial treatment cost Mr Miles around £25,000 – money he only had available having retired from teaching- and has only now recovered following his successful legal case.
Solicitor Caroline Murgatroyd, of Hudgell Solicitors, represented Mr Miles in the case and said the care he received was ‘shocking’ and an example of dentists ‘failing to provide proper care or inform and consult with patients about their health’.
She described Dr Tibrewal’s decision to proceed with the implants and bridge, without putting in plans to tackle the chronic gum disease first, as one which “fell seriously below that expected of a reasonable competent general dental practitioner”.
She alleged his negligent treatment caused the loss of 10 teeth, whilst the lack of appropriate care by Tracey Black from 1991-2009 had directly caused the loss of two teeth.
“This really is a case of shocking dental care by two separate dentists. Mr Miles has been very unfortunate in that not only was he let down by Tracey Black, but then left in a much worse scenario when treated by Dr Tibrewal, who should have noted the extensive periodontal disease and taken action.
“We see many cases where a patient switches dentists after a long period with the same practitioner and that is the trigger for poor care to be identified and treatment plans put in place. That is what should have happened here.
“Sadly, Dr Tibrewal only proceeded to make matters much worse by fitting the bridge and implants which soon fractured. The fitting was so poor Mr Miles was unable to clean between his implants, he had significant bone loss around the implants, as much as 70 per cent in areas, and there was no chance of it remaining viable.
“As a result Mr Miles unnecessarily incurred significant financial expense for implants that were doomed to failure, he lost all his remaining lower teeth and spent a year with dentures, which he found uncomfortable and couldn’t wear. He then had to undergo an extensive period of remedial treatment to tackle the periodontal disease and eventually have replacement implants.
“We are obviously delighted to have secured compensation for our client through a joint settlement, but it is disappointing that Court proceedings had to be commenced before this matter was resolved by the defendants”.
Mr Miles, 62, now says he hopes his story can help others take greater care of their teeth.
“It has been a very tough few years and now when I look back I just feel patients are told very little, and that is wrong,” he said.
“I think dentists need to be far more direct in how they speak to patients. I was always a believer that you simply brush for a shine and to make your teeth look as clean as possible.
“I now ensure I use an electric toothbrush, as it is so much more effective, and I floss every day, as it is not the teeth but between the teeth and on the gums where the problems occur.
“I’d like to see much more educating from dentists, rather than simply sending you on your way and booking your next appointment.
“As a patient, I’d urge people to ask more questions, if you need to see the hygienist ask why, and what you can do to make things better. I’d like to say you can trust the dentist, but my experience tells you that is certainly not always the case.”