Going to the dentist is unpleasant for most people, to say the least. If a healthcare professional fails to treat you properly, leading to more injury and suffering, that can be very distressing. This can affect not only your health but also your mental and financial well-being.
A dental professional can act negligently by delivering a poor standard of treatment, incorrect treatment or a delayed diagnosis. Dental malpractice can cause damage to your nerves and gums, lead to periodontitis or wrongly fitted implants, and even to the extraction of a wrong tooth.
If you suffered any kind of injury or trauma after being treated by a dentist, you might be entitled to make a dental negligence claim. If you can prove your healthcare professional acted negligently, causing you further harm, you could receive compensation for your pain, suffering and any lost earnings.
Do I have a dental negligence claim?
A quick consultation with a dental negligence solicitor can let you know if you are eligible to make a claim. Generally, you can claim dental negligence compensation if:
- You realised you suffered a dental injury within the last three years.
- Your healthcare professional acted negligently in their duty of care towards you, causing your injury.
You could make a dental negligence claim if you sustained any kind of personal injury, including mental distress or financial loss, due to the negligent work of a healthcare professional. You could claim for:
- Injuries suffered due to sub-standard procedures or failure to promptly diagnose tooth decay, which might lead to nerve damage or pulling a wrong tooth.
- Severe injuries, in which the dentist’s negligence caused you to develop a dangerous infection or if they failed to diagnose oral cancer.
- Lack of informed consent if you received treatment without being made fully aware of the risks and consequences.
You are entitled to make a claim against an NHS dentist as well as against a private dental provider. All dental professionals in private practice must take out liability insurance to cover any personal injury claims against them. It will be their insurance company giving you the compensation award.
The dental negligence claims against an NHS dentist are handled by the NHS Resolution insurance company set up by the government and might settle quicker than a claim against a private dentist.
If you suspect you are the victim of dental negligence, you should contact a professional solicitor. They will let you know if you can make a claim and what steps you should follow to receive compensation.
You will need clear evidence to prove that your dentist was negligent in their care. Your solicitor will arrange an independent medical assessment to evaluate the extent of your injury and any long-term complications.
What is dental negligence?
Dental negligence refers to any type of avoidable injury that is caused by a dental professional by failing to take reasonable care. It includes any instances of incorrect, delayed or poor treatment leading to further damage, such as:
- Extracting the wrong tooth
- Anaesthesia complications
- Negligent orthodontic treatment
- Failure to diagnose oral cancers and other diseases
- Injuries to oral nerves
- Negligent root canal treatment
- Not diagnosing and treating gum disease
- Poorly applied crowns, fillings or implants
- Negligent wisdom tooth extraction
- Errors in interpreting X-rays
- Undiagnosed periodontitis
If the dentist negligence doesn’t cause some level of significant injury, it will probably not be considered malpractice, and your dental negligence claim may fail. For example, you can unlikely claim dental negligence compensation for minor scratches or bruising while receiving treatment.
You can, however, complain about a dentist without asking for compensation if you are unhappy with how they treated you:
- You can complain to the dental practice in person or by letter.
- If you received treatment through the NHS, you could file a dentist complaint on the NHS website.
- Contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
- If you chose private dental care, you could complain through the Dental Complaints Service.
- You can raise your concern with the General Dental Council, no matter where you received treatment.
Depending on the circumstances leading to your injury, a dental professional might be guilty of:
- Contributory negligence, if both you and the dentist share some blame for the outcome of your treatment.
- Vicarious liability, if a third party holds part of the blame for your injury. This could be the supplier of medical equipment or the company that employed the dentist.
- Gross negligence, if your dentist clearly disregarded your health and well-being by acting negligently.
If you feel you were mistreated, an experienced solicitor can let you know if you might be eligible to get compensation based on the circumstances and the extent of your injury. Speak to a trained legal adviser by calling 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation.
What are the different types of dental negligence?
If a dentist doesn’t properly diagnose or treat an oral condition, this could lead to aggravations that might cause life-long problems. If you consider your dental professional caused you unnecessary suffering and financial expenses, you might be able to make a dental negligence claim.
There are four main categories of dental negligence you could claim compensation for:
Misdiagnosis, if it leads to complications or unnecessary treatments.
A delayed or incorrect diagnosis can result in severe complications, such as infections and oral cancer. Any condition that is not properly assessed and treated may worsen, causing further damage.
For example, untreated gum disease can turn into periodontitis, a severe soft tissue infection that might cause tooth loss and other serious health complications. Periodontal disease is linked with rheumatoid arthritis, coronary heart disease and respiratory illnesses.
Inadequate or poor dental technique
Dental procedures to restore or improve damaged teeth include crowns, implants, tooth fillings and veneers. Correctly performed treatments should last at least several years, but if the dentist does not use the appropriate techniques, they might fail quite quickly.
Patients should be informed correctly and to the full extent about the nature of their problems and any risks associated with treatments.
When a dental procedure fails and needs to be repeated, this can be traumatic, painful and financially expensive. You can make a dentist negligence claim for any injury and financial losses incurred due to incorrect or substandard dental techniques.
The careless behaviour of a dentist might cause them to remove a wrong tooth or use too much force, causing an injury or damage to adjacent teeth.
For example, if some root sections remain within the jaw after an extraction, this can lead to persistent toothache and jaw infections, causing unnecessary pain and suffering.
Lack of informed consent
Your dentist has a duty to inform you of all the risks and possible outcomes of the treatment they are advising. They should obtain your consent before carrying out any procedure and advise you of any alternative therapies that are available.
Not getting informed consent from the patient counts as a valid ground for dental negligence compensation, especially if they suffer an injury after treatment or surgery.
Based on your circumstances, a solicitor can let you know what type of dental negligence you were a victim of and what steps you should take to make a successful claim.
How do you make a dental negligence compensation claim?
To make a successful dental negligence claim, you will need to be able to prove that the sub-standard care of a dentist caused you to suffer an injury. There are several things you will have to support with evidence:
- Breach – Showing how your dentist breached their duty of care towards you by failing to meet the required standard of care. In some cases, other dental professionals might be called to provide their expert opinion and testimony.
- Causation – Proving that your injury was directly caused by the dentist’s negligence.
- Damages – You will need proof of the injuries you suffered because the dentist breached their duty of care. If there’s no proof of damages, you cannot make a dental negligence claim.
If you have a valid claim, your solicitor will guide and advise you through the claiming process. To secure compensation, you will have to follow a series of steps:
Obtain your medical records
Your solicitor will contact the dental practice or hospital you are claiming against and ask them for your medical records. This can be an extensive process, taking up to several months, but the medical report attesting to your dental problem and the treatments you received is essential for claiming compensation.
Review your medical records
A medicolegal expert will prepare a report detailing whether you have been subjected to any type of medical negligence, the harm you suffered as a result and any long-term implications.
In some cases, the medicolegal expert will have to give you a medical exam to determine the kind of harm you suffered and what steps would be needed to correct it. The visit will be arranged as close to you as possible.
Letter of claim
Your solicitor will send a letter of claim to the dentist you are claiming against, containing your allegations of negligence towards them. They will have four months to provide a letter of response stating whether or not they agree with the allegations.
If the dentist you are claiming against admits liability, your solicitor will calculate a suitable compensation amount based on the severity of your injury and any related financial losses. If the defendant agrees to pay you compensation, your case will successfully come to an end.
Issuing court proceedings
The defendant might deny the dental negligence claim against them or refuse to negotiate a settlement. In this situation, your solicitor may have to issue court proceedings and defend your case in front of a judge. You might have to attend court, particularly if the estimated value of your compensation exceeds £25,000.
Based on the available evidence, witnesses and expert witness statements, the judge will assess liability and decide on a fair compensation award.
How long does a dental negligence claim take?
Every claim is different, but an expert dental negligence professional can give you an estimate of how long your claim might take to settle. This will mainly depend on:
- The severity of the injury you suffered
- The estimated value of the compensation award
- Whether the defendant accepts liability
- If you are claiming against the NHS or a private dental practice
Medical negligence claims are usually more complex than other claims for personal injuries. There is a higher probability they will end up in court, which means it will take significantly longer to receive compensation.
If a dental practitioner is found guilty of medical negligence, they might no longer be able to work in their medical field anymore. A dental negligence claim could effectively end their career, so the case must be thoroughly investigated before assessing liability.
According to NHS Resolution, between 2013 and 2018, they facilitated a total of 27,416 medical negligence claims, with an average of 891 days needed to settle a claim. The time required to reach a settlement increased proportionally to the compensation award.
Of all claims, 16,443 or 60% of the total, had a value of under £25,000 and settled on average within two years. Claims worth within £100,000-£250,000 took more than three years to settle, while claims over £1M were concluded within an average of five years.
Is there a time limit for making a dental negligence claim?
Usually, there is a time limit of three years from when the medical negligence occurred, in which you can make a dental negligence claim. This is known as the claim limitation date, after which your case becomes statute-barred, and you can no longer start legal proceedings.
The date of knowledge refers to the moment you knew or should have known that you suffered a significant injury that could be attributed to dental negligence. If you become aware of the damage later after a dental procedure, the three-year countdown will begin on that date.
Nonetheless, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible after becoming aware of your injury. Dental negligence claims can be particularly complex, and you might need a lot of time to gather evidence and prepare all the required documents. Most solicitors won’t accept a claim after 30 months or sometimes even less have passed since your injury.
There are a few exceptions to the three-year limitation date:
- There is no time limit to claim dental negligence compensation on behalf of a child until they turn 18. Afterwards, they will have another three years to start a claim by themselves.
- There is no limitation date to make a dental negligence claim on behalf of someone who lacks the mental capacity to conduct legal proceedings.
- In the case of wrongful death due to dental negligence, a family member can claim compensation within three years from the victim’s death.
- If you received dental treatment abroad, the time limit to make a claim can vary from country to country and might be as short as six months, so you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
To find out what limitation date might apply to your case and if you still have time to make a claim, call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a dental negligence solicitor.
Will dental negligence solicitors offer a no win no fee service?
If you suffered poor treatment, an injury or trauma at the dentist, you might want to make a dental negligence claim for the unnecessary pain and suffering that they caused you.
Nonetheless, you might be concerned about running a potential financial risk without having the certainty you will receive compensation for your damages.
The good news is, if a dental negligence solicitor believes you have a strong claim with a fair chance of success, they will offer you a no win no fee agreement. This involves no upfront fees or hidden charges, and you don’t have to pay a single penny if you lose the case.
Before starting legal proceedings, your solicitor will take out After the Even insurance on your behalf, which will cover all legal fees if your claim is unsuccessful.
If you win, the defendant will pay most of the legal costs. You will only have to cover:
- The cost of your insurance policy.
- Some basic fees that can’t be recovered from the defendant.
- A success fee to compensate for the risk your solicitor took by offering you a conditional fee agreement. The success fee cannot exceed 25% of your compensation, and you will agree upon it in advance.
How much compensation can I claim for dental negligence?
If you suffered any kind of injury due to dental negligence, you might wonder if the compensation you might receive is worth the time and effort required to make a successful claim. It is not a straightforward answer, as the award depends on many factors, such as:
- The nature of your claim – carelessness, misdiagnosis, informed consent or poor technique.
- The severity and long-lasting effects of your injury and how much pain and suffering it caused you.
- The extent of future treatments you will need to correct the negligent therapy.
Your solicitor will consider the many ways in which the dentist negligence affected your life and will calculate a suitable compensation award to cover damages such as:
- Lost earnings due to taking time off work
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional and psychological distress
- Medical expenses for immediate and outgoing treatments
- Travel costs for anything related to the injury, including visiting your solicitor
- Changes in life quality
- Loss of amenity
- Loss of consortium
The Judicial College guidelines are largely used to calculate compensation awards; according to their publication, you could get:
- £1,020 to £1,600 for minor, short-term damage that can be corrected
- £4,080 to £7,160 for moderate damage to one or more front teeth
- Up to £35,790 for severe, chronic pain with teeth deterioration
- £1,600 to £3,310 for minor facial scarring
- £27,940 to £91,350 for very severe facial scarring that might cause disfigurement and psychological trauma
- Up to £42,730 for a jaw injury
- Up to £14,810 for a cheekbone injury
- £18,020 to £23,460 for loss of taste
- Up to £108,620 for severe psychiatric harm with debilitating symptoms
- £36,060 to £49,270 for a severe illness with long-term implications, requiring hospital admission
These amounts do not include any financial losses and medical expenses but only cover the physical and psychological impact of the injury. Your solicitor will be able to give you a more precise estimate of your compensation prospects.
Can I sue an NHS dentist for negligence?
No matter if you received treatment from an NHS dentist or a private provider, if they were negligent in their duty of care, you might be eligible to sue them for dental negligence.
According to the standards and duties of care set by the General Dental Council, all dental professionals must:
- Put the interest of the patient first
- Obtain valid consent from them for any procedure
- Develop and maintain professional skills and knowledge
- Raise concerns for any risks to the patient’s well-being
- Provide effective communication with the patient
You are entitled to the same level of care, whether you seek private treatment or use the NHS dental services. Your rights when receiving dental care are:
- To be informed about the course of your treatment
- Have enough information to make an informed decision
- To be treated with respect and dignity and be listened to
- Be informed about the cost of any work you might need
If your NHS dentist caused you unnecessary harm by giving you incorrect or poor treatment or failed to diagnose a dental problem, you could make a dental negligence claim against them.
All claims against NHS dental professionals are handled by NHS Resolution, a specialist insurance company, and might take less time to settle than claims against a private professional.
If you need legal advice regarding claiming against an NHS provider, call 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a dental negligence solicitor.
Can I claim for negligent cosmetic dentistry?
As more and more people want to have a perfect smile, cosmetic dentistry has become very popular in the last decade. If your cosmetic treatment goes wrong due to negligence, you might be able to make a dental negligence claim.
Common examples of things that could go wrong because of cosmetic dentistry include:
- Incorrectly fitted braces and lack of advice and aftercare
- Poor function and appearance of crowns or bridgework
- Poorly fitted crowns that are hard to clean and get food trapped, causing gum disease
- Badly fitted veneers that might fall or cause discomfort
- Unnecessary orthodontics causing damage to teeth
- Incorrectly fitted crowns, bridges or veneers that lead to tooth decay and infections
- Dental implants that caused nerve damage or damage to sinuses
- Incorrect implant positioning and damage to the surrounding teeth
If you believe that dental negligence during your cosmetic treatment caused you unnecessary suffering, you might be able to claim compensation. A solicitor can let you know if you might have a valid claim based on the circumstances of your injury and the pain and suffering it caused you.
Can I make a dentist negligence claim on behalf of somebody else?
If your child, a friend or a family member suffered a trauma due to dental negligence, you might be wondering what you can do to help them. While you cannot take away their pain and suffering, you could facilitate a dental negligence claim on their behalf.
You can represent someone else during the claiming process by being appointed as their litigation friend. To become a litigation friend, you will usually have to send the court:
- A certificate of suitability with a statement of truth stating you can justly and competently represent the victim with no conflict of interest.
- A certificate of service with the name and address of the person you want to represent.
Becoming a litigation friend brings many responsibilities and could be a long-term commitment. Some dental negligence claims might take several years to conclude. Some of your duties will be:
- Attending court hearings
- Consult with the solicitor and make decisions about the claim
- Deal with correspondence and legal documents
- Make sure the victim attends all medical appointments
- Pay any necessary court fees
- Consider compensation offers
You can act as a litigation friend if you are one of the parents, a legal guardian, a close friend or family member, a social worker or even a solicitor or another party with a lasting power of attorney on behalf of:
- A child under 18 years old. After turning 18, it is considered that the individual has the mental capacity to conduct legal proceedings, and you will be released from your role as litigation friend.
- An individual suffering from a condition that affects decision making. Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, a victim who suffers from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, a learning disability, stroke or a mental health condition such as depression has the right to be represented by a litigation friend in a personal injury claim.
- Your role as litigation friend ends if they recover mental capacity, after you secured suitable compensation, or if someone else takes over your duties with a valid reason.
- Someone with a language barrier. If an individual whose first language is not English needs your support to make a dental negligence claim, you can represent them. The legal adviser will need their permission to discuss the claim with you.
- A deceased person. You can claim compensation in wrongful death cases if you are a dependent of the deceased such as a spouse, child or another close relative.
If you feel you may have a valid claim for compensation, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser. They will answer any questions you might have and assist you through the claiming process.