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What should patients do if they are concerned that their dentist has been dishonest about treatment?
By Ben Lees
Have you ever experienced that feeling of being suspicious about your treatment but feeling you shouldn’t ask questions because your dentist knows what they’re doing and you asking questions will just waste their time?
It is the role of the General Dental Council (GDC) to identify criminal and negligent behaviour of dental practitioners; often working in conjunction with police to investigate allegations of a dishonest dentist. These investigations are usually brought after reports from patients who feel they have had suspicious dental treatment but more often than not, when it is already too late.
It is important to note that the vast majority of dentists provide a service within the guidelines and regulation of the GDC; many acting over and above the standards required of them. However, despite the sanctions in place to deter such behaviour, a minority of dishonest dentists continue to abuse the system by not only claiming for treatments they have not done but also by convincing their patients to pay for expensive treatment they do not need.
Young Jun Suh practiced in Brixton and was ordered to pay over £104,000 in compensation for inventing patients to claim NHS treatment costs and for deceiving patients into paying for private treatment which was unnecessary.
Suh was investigated after a member of the public raised suspicion because they had received a patient questionnaire addressed to a person they had never heard of.
After being erased from the register on 20th December 2011, the Brixton dentist was prosecuted on 13th January 2012 and sentenced to two years in prison. He was due to remain on licence until 13th January 2014. Mr Suh was then called to Court on 25th October 2013 after investigations revealed he was practising in Brixton again whilst unregistered and on licence. He has been recalled to prison.
One of Suh’s former patients alleged that he had advised them they needed expensive root canal treatment and that no alternative options were available. Feeling this may be suspicious dental treatment, that particular patient then went on to obtain a second opinion and discovered that the treatment would have been unnecessary. Unfortunately, our Dental Negligence Team are usually instructed by trusting patients who have undergone suspicious dental treatment believing there was no need for a second opinion and who have later discovered the treatment was unnecessary and negligent.
Our Dental Negligence Team has extensive experience in matters where a patient has been encouraged to have treatment which may not have been the most appropriate treatment for their circumstances and has also caused damaged to their teeth.
We are often contacted by Clients who have previously approached their dental practitioner for treatment to make their teeth more aesthetically pleasing and who have later become concerned about suspicious dental treatment they have received. We investigate the matter and in some cases, have discovered that the Client was given one option to achieve better looking teeth despite there being other, less harmful, options available.
One example was a Client who had two crowns fitted to her central upper teeth. Despite the availability of veneers, her dental practitioner advised her that she needed crowns and failed in his duty to discuss other treatment options that were available to her. Sadly, this particular Client was still in her teens at the time and it is likely there will be a need for extensive future remedial treatment.
We understand that most people don’t ask questions of their dentist because if they need to know something, they trust their dentist will have told them, after all that’s the duty of their dentist. We equally understand that sometimes it is too embarrassing to ask questions of your dentist because you think it may annoy them or appear rude.
If you do suspect that you may have had restorative or cosmetic treatment that may not have been the most appropriate treatment in your circumstances or that the treatment itself was substandard, we would urge you to seek independent advice from a registered dental practitioner and the advice of a specialist within our dental negligence team.