Understanding the Legal Framework Surrounding Dental Negligence Claims
When seeking professional dental care, we expect professional dental treatment to follow standard clinical procedures.
In the vast majority of cases the dental treatment and care provided is to the requisite standard. However breaches of duty of care, or statutory duty, do also arise which amount to negligence causing much pain and discomfort in this area.
Dental negligence is a form of medical negligence, and a patient can seek a legal remedy for substandard care that caused pain and injury. If you sustain such substandard medical care with a dentists practice in another EU country, which is more common these days, you have options in terms of legal avenues of redress open to you.
What Constitutes Dental Negligence?
Instances of negligence will evidently vary depending on the facts of each case, however, here are some examples:
- Failure to make a proper diagnosis. For example, a dentist inaccurately diagnoses a tooth problem and carries on to provide an unsuitable treatment procedure causing pain.
- Failure to obtain informed consent. A patient must know what they are consenting to. A pre-operative consultation should take place detailing the problem, treatment options available and agreement obtained.
- Inadequate treatment/aftercare. When a dental practitioner provides inadequate treatment and aftercare, an individual may suffer a personal injury*, and dental negligence can arise.
- Incorrect drug prescription. One may also suffer a personal injury* if this occurs.
- Carelessness. Careless subpar work which results in pain and suffering which is unacceptable.
Proving Dental Negligence
To succeed in a dental negligence claim, you need to provide evidence that proves the medical carer failed in their duty and statutory duty causing you harm.
The particulars of negligence relevant to each case will be different, but it must be proved that the defendant did not exercise reasonable care, diligence, judgement and caution regarding the treatment given, or advice given, or management of the situation etc.
In a typical situation, a competent and professional medical person is expected to follow the recommended clinical procedures when faced with a unique dental problem.
A patient can prove his/her the treatment or care provided was below the acceptable standard if, for example, the wrong treatment was conducted and it amounts to a situation that couldn’t have occurred with another professional practitioner.
Another requirement is that of causation. This links the actions taken by the dentist to the injuries sustained. The patient must show that if it were not for the negligence of the dentist, she/he wouldn’t have suffered a personal injury*.
Dental Negligence Case Study Example
A woman sought dental care to have a root canal filling procedure, however, something awry occurred during the procedure that caused her to spend the following five years experiencing pain in the area, and with the inability to chew food properly.
That made her spend time and money on surgical procedures and had a negative effect on her daily life. The patient alleged that the dentists care was negligent and left her in a very unfair situation.
Medical evidence in such an example case will then assess a visual representation of the tooth structure, what the proper RCF procedure should have been, x-rays of the paining tooth etc. and the method employed by the medical person will be assessed.
Was the root canal overfilled is one question that will probably be asked, for example.
Dental Negligence – Root Canal Treatment
Root Canal Treatment (RCT), also known as endodontic treatment, is used to treat decaying teeth, leaking fillings, and trauma. The procedure involves the removal of the decaying matter, then filling in the root canal within the gums.
Being an invasive treatment procedure, RTC may lead to a health complication, especially if the dentist failed to carry out the standard treatment procedures. An injured patient of RCT negligence can seek a legal remedy if examples arise:
- There’s a fractured bone inside the root canal yet the medical person didn’t notify you;
- Improper RC filling leading to infections;
- Partial removal of the nerves;
- There is a leaking filling;
- Informed consent was not sought nor obtained.
Failed RCT procedures, may be remedied if quick action is taken. They include:
- Repeat RCT;
- Surgical operation;
- Extraction of the infected tooth.
With dental negligence claims, injured parties are required to initiate proceedings within two years after the date of the cause of action. This may sound like a long time but it is not, as the investigation process can be extensive, obtaining medical records can be difficult and it takes time to obtain reports etc. and get the case moving.
Injured minors can commence a legal action through their parent/guardian. Cases involving children have an exception to the 2-year window. If no lawsuit was filed when you’re a minor, you have the chance to commence proceedings within two years after attaining the age of 18 years.
Please be advised that the above-mentioned material is intended as an overview and as a broad out-line of the topic discussed. It should not be considered as complete and comprehensive legal advice, nor act as an appropriate substitute.
Due care has been taken in the publication of this article and we do not accept legal liability as a result of reliance on any material covered in the above article.