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Common claims for poor orthodontic treatment

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    The demand for perfect teeth is ever-increasing and last year nearly 1 million people started orthodontic treatment but what are the risks?

    By Ben Lees

Along with tanning skin, highlighting hair and HD’ing eyebrows, cosmetic dentistry is in high demand. One of the most popular methods to achieve a better dentition is through orthodontic treatment to straighten out overlapping, under-erupted and rotated teeth.

Two recommended methods of orthodontic treatment are, fixed braces (also colloquially known as “train-tracks”) followed by retainers or clear aligner therapy.

Considerations prior to treatment:

Gums – As with all treatment, there are some risks to consider as the roots of the teeth are held in place by a periodontal ligament and supporting bone and tissue. When manipulating the teeth into an alternative position, the orthodontist must ensure that this is achieved in a way which will preserve the supporting bone and tissue.

Therefore, before providing any orthodontic treatment, the practitioner must assess the full dentition of the patient to ensure their gums and teeth are healthy enough to withstand such manipulation. Otherwise, as has been the case for some of our Clients, one or more teeth may be compromised and lost when orthodontic treatment is carried out.

Occlusion – In most cases, if teeth are overlapping considerably, this is usually due to over-crowding and the most common solution is to remove some of the teeth to create space for the others to line up. It may sound simple, however, it can be vital to preserve the correct biting occlusion and ensure the opposing teeth meet correctly.

When orthodontic treatment begins, an appropriate assessment of the space in the mouth must be undertaken because if there are too many teeth, the teeth will not align and will become deranged.

Examples and effects of poor orthodontic treatment

I act for a number of patients who have suffered injury or a worse outcome as a result of negligent dental treatment, and this includes orthodontic treatment.  Examples of claims involve:

1. If a patient’s bite is allowed to become deranged our mal-aligned, this can cause pressure points between opposing teeth when chewing or even talking which then causes pain, sensitivity and/or teeth to chip each other. Equally, a patient’s jaw may be misaligned as a result and this can cause discomfort around the jaw line and even cause temporo-mandibular joint dysfunction.

2. In some cases where clear aligner therapy has been recommended, this has caused rotation of one or more teeth in that it faces sideways as opposed to facing out of the mouth. This may not have compromised the tooth but is disheartening to a patient who may have paid a lot of money for orthodontic treatment that is unsuccessful. In some cases, this rotation may be due to poor orthodontic treatment.

3. A patient who has gums in poor health who has orthodontic treatment may find that one or more teeth change colour, become mobile or move back into their original position after the orthodontic appliance is removed. This may not only be a sign of poor orthodontic work but may suggest that orthodontic treatment was not recommended treatment and that dental treatment for decay or gum disease should have been carried out first.

In the right hands orthodontic treatment is completely safe and undertaken by many every day, but it is vital that the dentist undertaking the work appropriately assesses the patient prior to carrying out treatment to avoid some of the problems I set out above.

If you have had orthodontic treatment you suspect may have been negligent, badly planned and/or caused the health of your teeth to deteriorate, we at the Dental Negligence Team would encourage you to seek the opinion of an alternative dental specialist.  You can find an appropriate specialist by checking their registration on the General Dental Council’s website.

We would also advise that you contact one of the lawyers specialising in dental negligence in our Dental Negligence Team for advice as to whether you may have a claim for the injuries you have suffered.  Claims can include the costs of treatment already paid for and also any future treatment you may require as a result of the poor treatment.

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