New statistics released by Citizens Advice have shown a substantial increase in the number of cases relating to poor dentistry over the past 12 months, with the service handling 4,000 enquiries over dental care problems last year.
These may be figures which shocked many – and led to national newspaper headlines – but they certainly were no surprise to our team of dental claims specialists here at Hudgell Solicitors.
The dental profession is one we have long raised concerns over, due to lapse regulations and a lack of accountability placing patients at risk.
Substandard dental service was said to be the biggest issue reported to the consumer service about dental care between April 2015 and March 2016.
People reported problems such as dentists cracking healthy teeth during a treatment, fillings coming out and dentures that didn’t fit. Further analysis of 354 of these cases revealed that three in four cases concerned, treatments actually caused the patient further problems.
In nearly a quarter (23%) of those cases patients said dentists also then refused to offer a refund or a free-of-charge repair.
In one case, a woman in her 70s paid £500 to have her teeth capped, only for the dentist to chip her two front teeth during the treatment. The dentist didn’t offer a repair or any compensation, and she then paid another dentist a further £700 to get the damage fixed.
This is truly shocking.
Patients have right to be compensated after dental negligence
When we visit our dentist, we have the right to expect the best standard of treatment by a qualified professional.
And should things do go wrong – which they often do – patients should certainly not be expected to pay to repair the damage themselves. It should be the opposite, they should be compensated for their pain, suffering, and often loss.
We represent an increasing number of clients who have suffered from poor dental treatment, from dentists simply failing to identify and treat gum disease (often despite patients having many regular check-ups) to poorly fitting crowns and painful abscesses caused by errors in treatment.
Between October 2014 and October 2015, close to 60 cases relating to sub-standard dentistry care led to patients being compensated after turning to us for help. In total, the money paid out was in excess of £540,000.
In our view, it is always advisable to seek a second opinion should you have any concerns you’re your dental treatment, especially if your dentist suddenly suggests extensive treatment, or if you have doubts over the quality of service you’ve received.
Our specialists recently secured compensation of £47,000 in a dental negligence claim as a patient had received poor care over four decades, resulted in them suffering serious gum disease and facing the loss of eight teeth.
It was only when the dentist retired from the practice, and the patient started seeing another dentist at the same surgery, that the widespread gum disease, which was destroying the patient’s gums and putting teeth at risk, was uncovered.
Dentists must ‘provide clear information about claiming compensation’
Unfortunately, dentists are often a choice of convenience, rather than research. Many simply choose practice closet to their home, without checking details on performance.
This is a risk, as most people fail to realise that dentistry is a very loosely regulated profession, leaving patients at risk of receiving sub-standard treatment, and potentially facing large bills for remedial work, should their treatment go wrong.
This is because many dentists practising in the UK abscond when they become aware of potential claims and some do not have indemnity cover in place, even though this is a requirement for registering with the GDC. Also, whilst cosmetic dentistry procedures such as veneers, laser whitening and teeth straightening are being carried out by dentists who don’t have specific qualifications or experience of the procedures. They do the work simply because they are money spinners.
Our advice is to thoroughly research a dental practice before become a patient, and to check the General Dental Council (GDC) register of professionals before agreeing to any treatment.
If you have concerns, raise them, and if in any doubt seek a second opinion.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy is calling on dentists to follow the rules by correcting their mistakes free of charge instead of passing costs onto patients, saying, and providing ‘clear information about how they can claim compensation if something goes wrong’.
Our team are available to provide that free legal advice should you or someone you know have concerns over your dental care.