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The process of making a dental negligence claim – explained


The Dental Negligence Team receives enquiries every day from members of the public who have received substandard dental treatment.

If you think you have a claim make sure to contact us as soon as possible.

When we receive your enquiry, our dedicated team of Legal Assistants will listen to your problem and confirm exactly what has gone wrong with your dental care. Following this, prospects of success will be reviewed and methods of funding discussed.

Once funding is in place, your case will be transferred to a different member of the Dental Negligence Team, who will be responsible for your claim from start to conclusion. They will be available to answer any questions, provide detailed advice, and guide you through the claim process as set out below:

1 – Obtaining your medical records

The first stage in any claim is to obtain your medical records. The team member responsible for your claim will write to the dental practice you are claiming against, your current practice (if different), and any other dental practice/hospital/GP practice that you have attended in relation to your claim.

Obtaining records is often a lengthy process and can take several months, but is an essential step in proving whether you have been subjected to negligence.

2 – Review of medical records and instruction of an expert

Once we have them, your records will be reviewed by the team member responsible for your claim and a medicolegal expert will be instructed. The expert will prepare a report detailing whether you have been subjected to dental negligence, and what harm you have suffered as a result.

On receipt of the report, the next stages of your claim will be discussed with you thoroughly.

3 – Examination

In some cases, you will need to be examined by a medicolegal expert in order to determine exactly what harm you have suffered and how this can be put right. However, this will not be necessary in all cases.

The Dental Negligence Team works with a network of experts across the country and will be able to arrange an examination that is convenient for you, wherever you live or work.

4 – Letter of Claim

Following this, a detailed “Letter of Claim” will be drafted, which sets out our allegations of negligence and causation to the dentist you are claiming against. They will have four months to investigate the allegations made, and will provide a substantive response during this four-month period called the “Letter of Response”.

If the other side agrees that you have been subjected to dental negligence, negotiations will begin to settle your case.

5  – Settlement

If the  Defendant admits liability, the team member responsible for your claim will value your case. The compensation you may receive will vary depending on what injury you sustain.

If you require extensive restorative treatment, for example, you will receive more compensation than if you suffer a period of pain and suffering as a result of negligent dental treatment.

Please take a look at our compensation calculator to find out more about how much a claim might be worth.

Compensation received following a successful claim for dental negligence will be comprised of:

  • an award for pain and suffering – this will compensate you for any pain you have endured, and also things like inconvenience, social effects (such as embarrassment) and any changes in your eating or sleeping habits
  • an award for future treatment costs – for example, if you extractions, restorations, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as a result of a psychiatric injury sustained due to negligence. We will also take into account the future maintenance costs for any treatment you may require, including future specialist appointments.
  • past loss – this may include past prescription costs, travel or dental treatment. For instance, if you had to repeatedly to travel to a specialist appointment as a result of dental negligence, the cost of this will likely be recoverable.

6 – Issuing Court Proceedings

If the defendant denies our allegations in the Letter of Claim, or refuses to negotiate settlement, we may need to issue Court Proceedings in your case. If this is necessary, the team member responsible for your claim will provide detailed advice in relation to this. We will ensure that you are guided through the process and that any queries you have are answered throughout.


What do I need to prove to win my case?

You’ll need to prove two things: ‘Breach of duty’ and ‘Causation’.

Breach of duty is when you show that the treatment you received fell below the reasonable standard of care you would have expected to receive from a reasonably competent dentist in their field. If medical evidence showed that the dentist acted in a way that was acceptable to most other dentists, this will be a valid defence and your claim probably won’t be successful.

Causation is when you show that the failings in your dental treatment caused you to suffer an injury, and that you are entitled to compensation for those injuries.

Will my case be treated fairly?

There is a misconception that medical professionals “close ranks” when their practice is questioned. However, the Dental Negligence Team will instruct an independent medico-legal expert to comment on whether your case was substandard.

Expert witnesses are required to be impartial, and have a duty to the court rather than their instructing party. This means that it is possible to obtain an independent view on your treatment.

When will my dentist find out about my claim?

At the beginning of your claim, we will need to apply for a copy of your dental records. We will give your dentist some brief details about your claim at this stage.

Will a claim affect my dental treatment?

No, it will not. Your dentist should not treat you any differently and should not strike you off their list. If this ever did happen, you should make a complaint to the surgery.

Should I make a complaint about my dental treatment?

You can make a formal complaint instead of taking legal action, or before doing so. You don’t normally need a solicitor to complain, you can do it on your own. To make a complaint, simply write a letter to the practice explaining why you are unhappy with your dental treatment.

If you’re making a claim about NHS treatment (for instance, treatment received in an NHS Dental Hospital), you should do so within twelve months of treatment. The NHS will send you an acknowledgement letter within three working days, and will let you know when to expect a formal response. This should hopefully be within six months of the date of your complaint.

Can I obtain compensation through a complaints procedure?

You will not be able to obtain compensation through the NHS complaints procedure. If you’re looking for financial compensation, you will need to talk to a solicitor.

You may be able to obtain compensation if you make a complaint to a dental practice. However, in considering this you should consider that you may be undercompensated through this route.

In assessing what level of compensation you should receive, the Dental Negligence Team will always take into account any past treatment costs, any future treatment costs and an award for your pain and suffering. If you obtain compensation directly from a practice, you run the risk of only recovering the costs of remedial treatment. This could leave with you unexpected expenses in the future.

For example, if you lose a tooth as a result of dental negligence and require an implant, the implant retained crown will need replacing approximately every fifteen years. However, a dental practice may only compensate you for the present cost of the implant.

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