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Helen always attended regular six-monthly check-ups with her dentist and over the years her treating dentists took x-rays, but she was never once advised that she had anything to worry about in respect of her teeth and gums.
In around 2015, Helen started expressing concerns with her front four teeth, which were crowned, as the gums appeared to be shrinking away. She was also worried about her gums in general, as they were bleeding when she brushed them. Helen therefore raised her concerns at every check-up but was continually reassured that everything was fine.
Eventually Helen was referred to the dental hospital as the gum recession was badly affecting her self-confidence and on 12 May 2016 attended an appointment at the Newcastle dental hospital. To her horror and disbelief, she was advised that she had irreversible periodontal disease with 50-65% bone loss.
The hospital explained that although they could replace the crowns on her teeth with new crowns, they would not recommend doing so because of the risk of increased destruction of the teeth. Helen cried when they told her this and was terrified that she may lose her teeth altogether.
The periodontal disease, Helen feared, would leave her stuck for the rest of her life with an ugly, embarrassing smile and the probability of losing her teeth.
The dental hospital did offer a gingival veneer which was subsequently fitted in July 2016. Unfortunately, following the fitting of the gingival veneer, Helen started to experience problems and was advised to stop wearing the veneer so much. By November 2017 the Hospital were so concerned that they advised her to stop wearing the veneer altogether as they were worried it would cause irreversible tissue damage.
This was very difficult and made Helen extremely upset as not wearing her gum veneer made her self-confidence plummet, dramatically affecting her job and social life. A new veneer was fitted in 2018, but Helen was still warned that she would need to wear it as little as possible.
“This was an extremely distressing time, and I hardly slept at night due to worrying about not wearing my gum veneer for work. I work in a very large office where I encounter many people daily so having a normal smile is very important to me as it enables me to be myself.”
Due to the negligence of her treating dentists, Helen had to wear a gum veneer to look and feel normal. Without it, when Helen smiled, her receding gums were obvious which was very distressing. Her smile is very important to her and not being able to smile confidently affected her personality. Helen became very guarded in conversations and much quieter. She stopped initiating conversations with colleagues as she felt so self-conscious about her smile, and this made her more insular at work. It was so difficult for her not to smile as that is her personality but equally difficult for her to confidently smile.
Following her diagnosis, Helen approached the Dental Negligence Team at RWK Goodman as she strongly felt that the periodontal disease should have been diagnosed earlier.
We agreed to take on her case on a ‘no win no fee’ basis and her dental records were obtained, and extensive investigations carried out into the chronology of treatment and her symptoms. Thereafter we instructed an expert who confirmed that the Defendants’ care fell below the standard expected of a reasonably competent practitioner, and as a result her periodontal tissues and periodontal health were allowed to deteriorate, resulting in the recession and loss of aesthetics that had become such a concern to her.
As part of the process, Helen also attended an appointment with one of our team’s experts to assess the damage that had been caused and to advise on the best remedial treatment plan.
Helen was advised that the best treatment option would be to extract all her upper teeth and replace them with an implant retained prostheses. She was informed she would require a sinus lift and bone graft to support the posterior implants, and thereafter between 4-6 implants would need to be placed in her upper jaw to support the prostheses.
Helen would also require regular periodontal maintenance for life.
Psychiatric evidence was also obtained which confirmed that the negligence had not only impacted her confidence particularly in social settings but also caused her considerable distress and psychological stress which triggered a depressive episode of moderate severity.
A Letter of Claim was sent to the Defendants setting out our allegations, but they failed to provide a Response and Court proceedings were therefore issued. Her claim was eventually settled for £46,500.00.
The whole experience had a huge impact on her mental health and personality, and Helen became a totally different person. She was tearful and it was clear she had also stopped enjoying life and found it difficult to be positive about the future.
“I am so angry that my periodontal disease went undiagnosed and untreated for so long, and even now must endure 3 monthly appointments to have my teeth cleaned. The failings of my dental practitioners have resulted in a lifetime of treatment and caused me anxiety, stress, and loss of confidence.”
However, thanks to her solicitor, Naomi Todd and her colleagues, Helen was able to get justice and the compensation she received has enabled her to get the treatment she needed to finally get her teeth fixed.
“I am absolutely delighted that after spending most of my 50s being embarrassed and ashamed of my teeth and smile, due to no fault of my own, I can now smile and talk with confidence aged 58.”
The before and after photos illustrate the journey Helen has been on, and if she had not brought a dental negligence claim, Helen would never have got her smile back.