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What happens to a Dentist when they do not meet the standards of treatment expected of them?
By Ben Lees
September 2013 marked the release of the General Dental Council’s (GDC) Standards for Dental Professionals in a bid to promote the level of treatment provided to patients and decrease dental negligence.
All dental professionals are required to register with the General Dental Council (GDC) before they can practice in the UK. For a successful registration there are specific criterions a dental professional must satisfy, for example, having the requisite qualifications to practice.
Once registered, dental professionals must adhere to the standards expected of them when carrying out treatment. Guidance to professionals of these standards is provided by the GDC.
To ensure the patient’s expectations are met, some of the following standards now apply to Dental teams:
• Ensure the risks, benefits and likely outcomes of a procedure are explained to your patients;
• You must check and document that your patient understands the information you have given when they give their consent;
• You must only accept a referral or delegation if you are trained and competent to carry out the treatment and you believe that what you are being asked to do is appropriate for the patient; and
• You must provide good quality care based on current evidence and authoritative guidance.
Should allegations of dental negligence arise, the GDC, acting as a regulatory and disciplinary body, can suspend a practitioner. If a disciplinary hearing deems a practitioner has seriously breached the standards expected of them, they may even be struck off the register.
Whilst it is for the GDC to take decisions on whether a dental professional has failed to meet the standards expected of them, it is not in a position to rectify the damage that has already been caused to patients who have received poor dental treatment.
For instance, some patients may discover the health of their teeth is far below that which their dental practitioner has previously advised them and they may need extensive restorative work and/or expensive trips to see a hygienist. Some patients may be informed, sometimes even during procedures, that the wrong tooth was extracted and therefore, may need implants inserted to restore the look and function of their teeth.
It is understandable that those in need of such treatment would be discouraged by the sheer expense and time it would take to put right, it is recognised that many who have been in this position did not know how to find out their future treatment needs or the costs involved and it is appreciated that some Clients are understandably apprehensive of seeking restorative treatment from a member of a profession they feel they no longer trust.
It is at this point that the law on negligence is necessary as a vital means of providing a patient with corrective treatment and compensation for their pain and suffering.
Our Dental Negligence Team has successfully concluded a high volume of dental negligence cases relating to wrongful extractions of teeth, inappropriate treatment and missed diagnoses.
We advise those who have concerns about their dental treatment to seek the advice of their dentist and/or another dental professional. It is also beneficial to obtain advice from an experienced, specialist dental negligence lawyer who will be in a position to independently review the circumstances and give the most appropriate advice.