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Is your dentist protected against negligent treatment?

Picture the scene; you’re joining a new dental practice, just before you go for your first appointment you search for your dentist on the General Dental Council. You find your dentist is registered and an address is there on screen to reassure you that all is above board and legitimate.

Well that’s ok then, right? If anything goes wrong, you have the reassurance that your dentist is registered with the General Dental Council and that offers you some protection.

Wrong, whilst every dentist in practice in the UK must be registered with the General Dental Council, there is no rule that such dentists must have indemnity against negligence or accidents. The General Dental Council instead issued guidance that funds must be available to satisfy a patient’s claim in case of negligence. This has been recently interpreted in case law to show that a dentist only needs to show they have sufficient means to cover the cost of such a claim, not to have indemnity insurance.

In addition, and this is an altogether more worrying scenario, we are more often coming across instances where a client has received negligent dental treatment only to find that afterwards the dentist has left the UK and gone abroad. In such cases, where a dentist who has left the UK refuses to co-operate then people who have genuine claims for negligent dental treatment are left without recourse to justice.

The General Dental Council’s mission statement is “protecting patients, regulating the dental team”.

We ask, how can patients be protected if they can be injured and unable to secure rightful compensation?

The answer is for the General Dental Council to keep records of each dental practitioner’s indemnity insurance. They could then be applied to for details where a patient is unable to contact a dentist who has left the country. Even better, the details could be displayed on the website alongside registration number and address.

Until these changes come about, what can patients do to protect themselves? Ask your dentist for their insurance details prior to commencing treatment.

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