The majority of dental surgery is carried out professionally however there are some instances where things do go wrong which is where our dental negligence solicitors can step in to assist. Our dental negligence solicitors deal with compensation claims using the no win no fee scheme. Damages are paid in full with no deductions. You will not be asked to finance the case as it proceeds. Win or lose there is no charge.
Dental Negligence is the failure of a dentist to treat and care for a patient with a reasonable degree of skill and care. If the dentist was careless, lacked proper skills or disregarded established medical
rules when treating a patient then it may be possible for dental negligence solicitors to claim compensation for personal injury and any other losses.
Our dental begligence solicitors deal with injury compensation claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don't win then you don' pay them their professional costs. Our lawyers will advise you in detail about the principles of no win no fee arrangements.
Most lay-men do not appreciate exactly how complicated dental practice has become and it's no longer just a matter of simple extractions and amalgam fillings with the arrival of complex sub specialities involving the use of high tech equipment. Some of the more common dental specialities include restorative dentistry, endodontics, prosthodomtics, peridontology with some patients needing referral to an oral and maxillofacial consultant in a hospital for major reconstruction. Our dental negligence solicitors frequently deal with cases where general practice dentists carry out work negligently, that should have been referred to a specialist dentist or that would have been better dealt with by a consultant in a dental hospital.
Exactly what is dental negligence? This concept is defined by law however deciding whether or not a dentist has been negligent may be far from easy for a dental negligence solicitor. The solicitors definition has changed and has become refined over the decades and may vary dependent on location. In general terms the standard of care required from a dentist in Australia is determined by the professional opinion of a significant body of respected dentists. This means that there may be more than one course of treatment which falls within the description. The fact that an alternative treatment fails, whilst another may have succeeded, does not always mean that the chosen treatment was negligent, provided that a significant number of other dentists would have pursued a similar course of action. Dental negligence claim issues can be extremely complex and are decided by the Judge in a court of law after listening to representations by both sides dental negligence solicitors and by expert witnesses.
Dental negligence is a type of medical negligence which is a sub-category of the general law of negligence with its own rules, protocols and case law. In order to prove negligence against a dentist it is necessary to show that the dentist owed a duty of care to the patient which is established by way of the normal doctor/patient relationship, thereafter it is necessary to show breach of that duty by establishing that no other group of reasonably competent dentists exercising normal skill and care would have carried out that treatment (which must be logical) and thereafter it must be proved that the injury was as a direct result of the negligent treatment. This means that the mere fact that dental treatment fails does not necessarily mean that the dentists action was negligent even if alternative or more conventional treatment may have succeeded, provided that a body of medical opinion supports the failed treatment.
The test to be applied in dental negligence cases is one of 'reasonable care' and the standard is not determined solely or even primarily by reference to the practice followed or supported by a responsible body of opinion in the dental profession. The High Court has ruled that the test is not what other dentists say they would or would not have done in the same or similar circumstances. If you believe that your problem has arisen as a result of erronious treatment by a dentist, contact our dental negligence solicitors for advice at no cost.
Time limits do vary for dental negligence claims in Australia and matters related to limitation can be an extremely complicated area of law. In general terms a dental negligence claim must be settled or legal proceedings must have been issued in a court of law within three years of the negligent treatment or within three years of the discovery of the injury caused by earlier negligent treatment. Failure to take appropriate action within the time limits may mean that the opportunity to claim compensation is lost forever. Time limits can vary dependent on the circumstances and there are exceptions for minors and infants and for those suffering from a permanent or temporary mental disability. For definitive advice on time limits you should always seek personal advice from a dental negligence solicitor rather than relying on any other source of information.
Compensation for dental negligence is based on the extent of the injury, the time taken for recovery and whether or not there are any long term consequences. If damages cannot be agreed between solicitors, the assessment of value will be carried out by a judge who will reference representations from both sides solicitors, the amounts awarded in similar previously decided cases and judicial guidelines, all of which may be tempered by the judges previous experience as a practicing lawyer.
Damages payable in a dental negligence compensation claim are intended to put the claimant back into the position that they would have been in had it not been for the injury. Any direct financial losses, which are known as ‘general damages’, can be calculated or accurately assessed however it becomes a difficult concept when awarding compensation for pain & suffering. Non economic losses or ‘special damages’ describe the award for pain & suffering which is determined by the extent of the injury, the recovery period and the presence of any long term consequences. When assessing the amount of the financial award the judge will listen to representations made by both parties dental negligence solicitors and will consider awards made in previously decided cases to assist in assessment of current damages.
Our dental negligence solicitors deal with claims for compensation as a result of neglect by dentists. In most cases we are able to are able to carry out the legal work at no cost to you. We pay compensation in full with no deductions. You do not have to fund or finance the case as it proceeds. If you would like free advice without any further obligation just call the helpline or complete the contact form or email our offices. A specialist dental negligence solicitor will speak to you over the phone and will advise on liability, the likely amount of the award and on how to best preserve your legal right to claim compensation. There are time limits in all personal injury cases including claims for medical negligence and dental negligence � act now or you may lose the right to claim compensation forever.
Dental fillings are probably the most minor and simple thing a dentist can do and yet things can go wrong. The dentist does fillings when there is a minor fracture, tooth decay or wear and tear on the tooth. It involves applying composite, metal alloy or porcelain to a tooth to replace areas that are missing due to the above reasons. When composite is used, the substance is put in soft, like putty, and is hardened with a blue hardening light. If it doesn�t harden well, it will fall out relatively easily.
The need for a dental fillings is usually identified by x-ray but many can be seen by a trained eye. The tooth is then isolated so no saliva can get into the tooth before the filling is placed. The tooth is drilled with a hand piece or with a laser so that no residual debris or bacteria are left behind. The area is then hollowed out so as to receive the filling. Fillings are often made with composite or with metal amalgam. Some people can become allergic or hypersensitive to metal fillings. The dentist must then polish and shape the filling so that it matches the bite of its opposing tooth.
Fillings are supposed to last about 5 years-10 years. If your filling doesn�t last that long, seek the advice of another dentist to see what went wrong as this could be a case of dental negligence.
Dental crowns are the next step up from getting a filling. A crown is a cap that covers a larger area of tooth missing due to decay and creates a tooth-like cap over a stub of a tooth. It is done when there is a big area of decay or a large fracture on the tooth that can�t be filled in with composite. Crowns are made from gold alloy, palladium alloy, or porcelain. They are made by making an impression of the area to be crowned and having a laboratory create the shape of the tooth. It is then cemented into the stub of tooth that remains.
Errors in making and putting in crowns do occur. The tooth can be the wrong size or shape and the bite can be wrong after the crown is applied. If the bite is wrong, you can get wear and tear on the crown or on the opposite tooth, and you can get chronic headaches and grinding of your teeth due to the bad bite. Your dentist, or another dentist, may need to replace the crown with a better one or it may need to be filed down so that your bite is improved.
Porcelain crowns tend to be more attractive looking but may also chip or crack. If your porcelain crown chips or cracks after fewer than five years, seek the advice of another dentist to try and explain why your crown failed before five years as this could represent dental negligence.
Permanent crowns take a week or more to be made in the laboratory; however, once put in, they are designed to last at least 5 to 15 years or more. If it lasts anything less than 5 years, you should have an investigation for dental negligence.
Root Canal Treatment
More serious dental problems, such as periodontal or tooth abscesses, need treatment with endodontics, which involves work on the root canals of the teeth. The root canal is the part of the inside of the tooth that carries the nerves and blood vessels of the tooth. If the root canal is infected, the dentist needs to go in and clean out the infection, fill in the root canals with composite mixture and then cover the tooth with a crown for better longevity.
Root canal work or endodontics must be first done by isolating the tooth with a rubber dam. This is so saliva can�t get into the pulp and carry bacteria that would ruin the root canal. Dentists who fail to do this step could be considered negligent. After isolating the tooth, each of the root canals is isolated so that they can be enlarged and cleaned out with files and other tools. All of the infection is cleaned out so that you are left with widened root canals that are clean and free of bacteria.
The dentist flushes out the debris in the root canals so that no bacteria or debris is left in the canals before they need to be filled. The canals need to be sterile before they can be filled. Ongoing infection after a root canal may be cause for a negligence claim against the dentist.
The root canal should then be filled with composite material that hardens inside the root canal. The tooth is considered �dead� at that point and needs a crown for maximum longevity. If the dentist fails to put a crown on the tooth, the tooth will fail early and you may need an extraction of that tooth.
Root canals are generally filled with a natural substance called gutta-percha which is elastic and can fill the entire root canal without difficulty. A temporary filling can be placed on the tooth until a crown can be applied to the tooth.
Dental implants can greatly improve the self-esteem of people who have lost teeth due to injury, decay or fracture. The dental implant involves a technique that creates an artificial metal tooth root that eventually bond with bone. The implant is crowned with an artificial tooth that can be safely used for any type of eating.
Errors can happen when putting in a dental implant. For example, the crown can be of the wrong shape or size, making the bite surface incorrect, the implant can perforate the sinus, the implant can fail to bond with the bone and the implant can fail. This can lead to TMJ or temporomandibular joint syndrome, chronic headaches or teeth pain from an abnormal bite. The wear and tear of the real tooth opposite the fake tooth can be increased, resulting in cavities on the opposite tooth or fractures of the opposite tooth.
An implanted tooth can last for a lifetime. If the tooth fails at any point, this could represent negligence on the part of the dentist who put in the tooth. This could mean that the tooth was placed improperly into the jaw.
Orthodontics is another error-prone part of dentistry. Orthodontics is one of two areas of dentistry devoted to cosmetic dentistry. It primarily deals with putting on braces to realign teeth or fixing a patient�s jaw so that the bite is aligned better. Many people need an orthodontist as children or teens; however, others use orthodontia as adults to correct problems they�ve had most of their lives.
Orthodontics can involve the placement of metal brackets on the teeth, which are attached to wires that gradually pull the teeth into their normal position. Braces can involve bottom teeth, top teeth or both types of teeth at the same time. The idea is to improve the bite and to improve the aesthetics of the teeth in general.
The orthodontist can, in some situations, use braces that are clear and fit over the teeth on a temporary basis. Wearers use these braces for several weeks or months before getting fitted with another one that is closer to perfect from the one before. This means that, after a couple of years, the teeth are straightened out. They cannot be used for severe bite problems.
Orthodontists must be careful not to make the problem worse. If the dentist�s work causes problems and does not create a decent bite after all you�ve spent on braces, this could constitute negligence.
Other cosmetic dentists put on dental veneers to create a perfect smile. It allows the teeth to be whiter and gets rid of teeth that have gaps or are abnormally shaped. Veneers are cemented onto the teeth which are often only the ones that are seen when someone smiles. Veneers are not usually attached to molars.
Veneers must be cemented on perfectly so the smile is nearly perfect. This means that the size and shape of the veneer must be a perfect match to the ones next to it. Veneers can be too yellow or too white, pointing to the need to talk to the patient to find out what they want and are expecting. If the veneers are not placed on neatly enough, they can look crooked. This constitutes dental negligence and means that the veneers will likely have to be replaced.
Sometimes, a tooth is hopelessly lost and needs to be extracted. Extractions are usually done under local anesthesia and involve pulling out the abnormal tooth and sometimes stitching together the flesh around socket where the tooth pulp and tooth roots used to be. Extractions are often done because of chronic gingivitis or tooth abscess that cannot be fixed with a root canal or with antibiotics. If a tooth is extracted without the patient being given the option of having a crown or a root canal, this is a case of dental negligence and you should get a second opinion if an extraction is automatically recommended.
Extractions should be done with precision so that the entire tooth, including the roots and pulp are removed and protected with stitches over the socket where necessary. If the entire tooth is not removed, it is a negligent phenomenon that requires legal advice.
It is not all that uncommon to have a tooth abscess caused by infection. Bacteria can get in the gum tissue through recessed gums or through dental caries that have penetrated the pulp of the tooth. The infection settles in the deeper tissues and can be seen on x-ray of the affected teeth. A dental abscess is more severe than gingivitis and requires a longer course of antibiotics. If the dentist does not treat the abscess with antibiotics and a root canal, the dentist is committing negligence and you should get a second opinion immediately.
Dental abscesses do not always resolve themselves with antibiotics and root canals. The only other option after that is to extract the tooth, allow the infection to heal, and replace the tooth with a dental implant.
In periodontics, it is the gum tissue that is treated. The dentist must be careful to graft pieces of gingival tissue to other places in the mouth where the root is exposed because of damage to the gums or chronic gingivitis. This is the field of dentistry in which gum tissue that has become hypertrophic is removed so the teeth look longer and leaner. This is a delicate area of dentistry. Failure of a gingival graft to stick to the normal tissue or taking off too much tissue is considered negligent and a second medical opinion or a legal opinion is required.
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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here