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What Is Classed as Dental Negligence?

Dental negligence refers to a failure by dental professionals to provide an appropriate standard of care to their patients, resulting in harm or injury. In the legal context, this failure breaches the duty of care a dental practitioner owes to their patients. 

This blog post will explore the concept of dental negligence, its common types, how to identify it, and how to prove it in a legal setting. Furthermore, we will guide you through the process of making a dental negligence claim and shed light on compensation aspects. Understanding these components can empower patients to ensure they receive the care they deserve and, if necessary, to seek legal recourse.

What is Dental Negligence?

Understanding what is classed as dental negligence can help you understand whether you are able to make a claim or not. The expected standard of care refers to the degree of prudence and caution required of a dental professional.

If a dental professional's actions or omissions cause harm or injury that a competent professional would have otherwise avoided, this can constitute a breach of duty, leading to dental negligence. This is a critical concept in dental negligence cases as it forms the basis for any claim.

Common Types of Dental Negligence

Common types of dental negligence include misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose, inadequate treatment, and lack of informed consent.

Misdiagnosis and Failure to Diagnose

Misdiagnosis is when a medical professional incorrectly diagnoses a patient's condition, which can result in inappropriate treatment and potential harm to the patient. Failure to diagnose is when a medical professional fails to accurately identify a patient's condition, which can result in improper treatment and potential harm to the patient. Both misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose are two of the most common types of dental negligence.

The repercussions of misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose can be severe. For example, misdiagnosis of oral cancer can occur when a dental practitioner fails to diagnose it or delays treatment. In order to prove misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose, a patient must be able to demonstrate that the dental practitioner did not adhere to the standard of care expected of them. This can be done by providing evidence such as medical records, expert testimony, and other pertinent documents.

Inadequate Treatment

Inadequate treatment refers to any act or failure to act that may be physically or emotionally detrimental to a patient. In the context of dental negligence, it could refer to substandard dental services, inappropriate or superfluous treatment, defective or hazardous clinical facilities or practices, or treatment providers lacking sufficient training and expertise. 

The repercussions of inadequate treatment can range from minor discomfort to severe physical and psychological damage, and in some cases, even death. To demonstrate inadequate treatment, a patient must present evidence that the dental professional did not meet the standard of care that is expected of them. This evidence can include medical records, witness statements, and expert opinions.

Lack of Informed Consent

Lack of informed consent in dentistry refers to a situation where a patient has not been provided with sufficient information regarding their dental treatment, including the potential risks and benefits, and has not provided their voluntary consent for the treatment. The lack of informed consent is a prevalent form of dental negligence.

Failing to obtain informed consent may provide a basis for dental personal injury claims. It is important for dental professionals to ensure that their patients are fully informed about the potential risks and benefits of any proposed treatment, so as to avoid potential legal ramifications and ensure the best possible care for their patients.

How to Spot Dental Negligence

Recognising dental negligence is an essential step in protecting your rights as a patient. Key indicators of potential dental negligence may include:

Consistent pain or discomfort: if you experience ongoing or worsening pain after treatment, this could be a sign of negligent treatment or incorrect procedure.

Unexpected results: if the results of a dental procedure significantly deviate from what was explained or expected, it may indicate a potential issue.

Repeated procedures: if the same tooth needs repeated procedures, this could point to inappropriate or insufficient treatment.

Lack of information: dentists should always provide comprehensive information about the procedure, possible risks, and alternative treatments. If this information is not provided, this can be seen as a breach of duty.

During dental visits, patients should feel comfortable asking questions about their treatment and should expect clear, comprehensive answers. If a dentist seems dismissive or reluctant to share information, this could be a red flag. Being an informed patient can help you spot potential dental negligence and take appropriate action if needed.

Proving Dental Negligence 

To prove dental negligence, you must be establish that there was a breach of duty and evidence must be gathered to support the claim.

In the following sections, we will discuss how to establish a breach of duty and gather the necessary evidence to support a dental negligence claim.

Establishing Breach of Duty

Breach of duty in dental negligence can be established by demonstrating that the dental professional failed to provide the expected standard of care. To establish a breach of duty in dental negligence, it must be demonstrated that the dentist did not exercise reasonable care and that their actions did not meet the standard of care that a reasonable dentist would provide in similar circumstances.

In addition, it must be shown that the breach of duty caused the injury or loss in question. This is called causation.

Gathering Evidence

Gathering evidence is the procedure of accumulating information and data to validate a claim or argument. It necessitates locating and examining pertinent facts, documents, and testimony.

In the context of dental negligence, the necessary evidence to substantiate a claim may include photographs, medical records, and witness testimonies. To support a claim of dental negligence, a patient must be able to provide evidence that the dental professional did not meet the standard of care that is expected of them. This evidence can include medical records, witness statements, and expert opinions.

Making a Dental Negligence Claim 

Making a dental negligence claim involves several steps. Firstly, if you understand what is classed as dental negligence and suspect that this has happened to you, request a full copy of your dental records, which will be crucial evidence for your case. Next, consult with a legal professional specialising in dental negligence claims who can guide you through the complex legal process.

Then, your solicitor will arrange for an independent dental examination. This expert will provide a report detailing any negligence, which forms a critical part of your evidence. Once all evidence is collected, your solicitor will typically send a "Letter of Claim" to the dentist involved, outlining the specifics of the negligence and the impacts on your health and wellbeing.

The timeline for making a claim varies but it is generally three years from the date you became aware of the negligence. However, there are exceptions, and a legal professional can advise based on your specific situation.

The process of making a dental negligence claim can be complex, requiring knowledge of medical terms and legal processes. Therefore, it is strongly advisable to seek legal representation to navigate this process effectively and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

Compensation for a Dental Negligence Claim

Compensation for dental negligence claims varies greatly depending on several factors. These include the severity and permanence of the injury, the level of pain and suffering experienced, the cost of additional treatment required to rectify the issue, and any impact on the individual's quality of life or ability to work.

Determining compensation involves a careful assessment of the claimant's personal situation, the specific circumstances of the negligence, and the supporting evidence provided. Your legal representative will typically negotiate with the dentist's insurance company or legal representative to reach a settlement.

It is important to understand that compensation amounts can range significantly based on the specific circumstances. For minor injuries with full recovery, compensation might be a few thousand pounds. For serious, life-altering injuries, compensation could extend to tens of thousands of pounds. Consulting with a legal professional can provide a more accurate estimation based on your unique case.

What are the reasons for dental negligence?

The reasons for dental negligence are wide-ranging and can range from a delay in treatment or an incorrect diagnosis to substandard treatment when carrying out fillings, crown work or root canal treatments, as well as misdiagnosis and mismanagement of periodontal diseases.

Dental negligence should always be taken seriously, so it is important to consider all these factors before seeking any dental care.

What is classed as negligence in the NHS?

Negligence in the NHS is defined as any instance where medical professionals have failed to maintain an acceptable standard of care, resulting in avoidable injury or harm to a patient.

This could take the form of delayed diagnosis/treatment, misdiagnosis, incorrect treatment or surgical mistakes.

How much can you claim for dental negligence UK?

If you have been the victim of dental negligence in the UK, you may be able to claim for any damages that you have experienced. The exact amount of your claim will depend on factors such as the treatment provided, resulting pain and suffering, loss of amenities, and more.

Can I get compensation for poor dental work?

You may be able to get compensation for poor dental work if you can prove that the dentist or clinic did not meet the appropriate standard of care and that this caused an injury. To determine whether you have a viable claim, it’s best to seek legal advice from a lawyer experienced in dental negligence cases.

A lawyer can help you assess the strength of your case and advise you on the best course of action. They can also help you understand the legal process and the potential outcomes of your case.

Contact Us 

It is vital for patients to understand the common types of negligence, how to identify it, and the process of making a claim. If you believe you are a victim of dental negligence, do not hesitate to take action. You have legal recourse, and there is potential for compensation. Always remember, your health and wellbeing are paramount, and you have the right to demand proper dental care.

If you are looking to make a dental compensation claim, contact the dental negligence solicitors at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors today. Our team is well-practised in dental negligence compensation claims.

Our specialist dental negligence solicitors can assess your case and help you secure the dental compensation you deserve. To speak to a member of our team, call 0808 271 3278 or fill in the quick contact form to request a call back and we can help you make your dental negligence claim.

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Russell Sutton is a partner at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, with a comprehensive understanding of the complexities surrounding dental negligence cases. Russell's commitment to his clients is unmatched, as he empathises with the emotional and physical toll that dental negligence can take on people’s lives.

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