Compensation for negligent dental treatment
I recently settled a claim for compensation for a lady who was treated by the same general dentist from between 2005 and 2011. She was a regular attendee. During this period she had more than 39 appointments.
My client saw a new dentist on 18 July 2012, because her previous dentist had told her that he planned to retire. The new dentist advised my client that as a result of the poor state of her teeth she would require the extraction of 6 teeth and some bone augmentation work. This was done in September 2012.
Before approaching me my client filed a complaint against the dentist with the General Dental Council. She came to learn that other of his patients were also complaining to the GDC.
I set about gathering a complete set of all her dental records both from my client’s former dentist and from her subsequent and now current dentist. I then instructed a dental expert to prepare a medico-legal report.
The GDC also instructed an independent expert and it soon became clear that my client’s treatment between 2005 and 2011 had fallen below an acceptable standard.
The main complaints were that the dentist had failed throughout to record the condition of my client’s teeth, the condition of the supporting tissues or of her gums in her dental records. At no stage did he undertake diagnostic bite wing x-rays. He failed to view any x-rays that would have shown the dental disease that ultimately cost my client her teeth.
During 39 appointments only three formal examinations of my client’s teeth were performed. On each of the other consultations the dentist only carried out episodic treatment to deal with urgent complaints of pain. He completely failed to note the status of her teeth on any record cards and failed to design, develop or monitor any treatment plan.
When my client’s new dentist examined her on 18 July 2012 he was amazed by the advanced state of decay and infection and recommended removal of the diseased teeth.
I sent a letter of claim to the dentist. Of course he and his legal advisers had also seen the reports prepared for the GDC. They were sufficiently concerned by the complaints to take the step of ordering the dentist to make the records of other patients available for their inspection.
My client’s case was not at all straightforward when it came to proving legal “causation” in relation to the harm she suffered as a result of the negligence. Our dental expert had to conclude that some of the treatment she now requires would have been needed in the future in any event (this is often the way with dental negligence cases), but he was firm in his view that had she received appropriate care between 2005 and 2011 that treatment would have been required much further down the line. In other words the dentist’s negligence had caused her to require extraction of her teeth and permanent implants much sooner than she would otherwise have done.
Despite the GDC’s enquiry it took a long time for my client’s claim to reach a conclusion. The dentist’s insurers initially tried to dispute how many teeth had been affected and how bad the advancement of her symptoms was as a result of the negligence.
My client was keen to settle the claim and so I set about valuing her future losses to enable settlement proposals to be put forward. A negotiated conclusion was reached with the insurers and my client is now looking forward to getting her smile back!