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Claim for undiagnosed tooth decay

Tooth decay occurs because bacteria enters a person’s mouth and makes acid, which leads to a hole in the tooth known as a cavity.

A cavity leads to the following symptoms:

  • toothache
  • sensitivity
  • pain upon pressure
  • pain when eating or drinking something hot or cold.

If diagnosed early enough, tooth decay can be treated with a simple filling. However if your dentist fails to diagnose tooth decay, there can be much more serious consequences. It is therefore of the upmost importance that your dentist monitors the health of your teeth by performing thorough examinations and taking regular x-rays.

Dentists should also provide regular and reinforced oral hygiene and dietary advice, and consider the application of fluoride solution or the provision of fluorite toothpaste if clinically necessary.

Unfortunately, The Dental Negligence Team sees many claims for the failure to diagnose and treat decay, which has often had serious ramifications for the patient. In many cases the patient regularly visits their dentist, and has done for several years, but decay is only discovered upon seeing a new dentist at the practice or because they have changed practice.

What you should know before making a claim

There are a few questions you might have before seeking compensation for your tooth decay, that will help you understand whether you’ve been subject to negligent dentistry. Click the below to find out more about your situation:


You have just been told that your teeth are decayed.  Has your dental treatment been substandard?

Not necessarily. If you do not regularly attend appointments with your dentist, they cannot be at fault for the failure to diagnose decay. Tooth decay can spread quickly, particularly if your oral hygiene is poor or if you consume a lot of sugar.

However, if you regularly visit the dentist and maintain good oral hygiene, you may well have a claim for dental negligence if your dentist fails to diagnose decay.

When assessing whether your dentist has acted negligently, we would investigate how often they took x-rays (technically known as radiographs). In keeping with professional guidelines, dentists should take x-rays at least once every two years in order to monitor the health of your teeth. If your dentist hasn’t taken regular x-rays and you have subsequently been diagnosed with decay, we would advise you to contact us in order that we can discuss this further.


Your child has suffered as a result of undiagnosed tooth decay. Is it possible to sue on behalf of them?

Unfortunately, many children suffer as a result of dental decay, often occurring when they have too much sugar in their diet. It is important that dentists act quickly to diagnose and treat decay, or else the consequences can be far more severe.

The Dental Negligence Team has acted for many children who have suffered as a result of a failure to detect decay, affecting both deciduous (baby teeth) and permanent teeth.

If your child has suffered, it is possible to bring a claim against their dentist as a “Litigation Friend”. This essentially means that you will act in the interests of your child, providing instructions on their behalf.


You think you may be suffering from tooth decay. What treatment will you need?

In the best case scenario, dental decay can be treated with a filling. However, if decay is undiagnosed and worsens as a result, you make require more invasive treatment, including:

  • root canal treatment – which is a dental procedure that is carried out to treat infection within the centre of the tooth (called the dental pulp).
  • extraction – and replacement with a bridge, denture or implant and implant retained crown.

Some of this treatment can be very expensive, particularly the placement of an implant and implant retained crown. This can be especially frustrating when your decay has remained undiagnosed and therefore worsened out of your control.

If you are facing unrealistic treatment costs as a result of undiagnosed decay, we would advise you to contact us with a view to making a claim.

“They approached the matter by providing me with the services of dental experts who assessed my case, and provided evidence which ultimately was presented to my dentist’s insurers. In due course, they conceded the claim and I received damages which allowed me to have the dental problems treated. I found them to be very competent and the service was excellent, particularly from Samantha Swaby, who kept me fully informed every step of the way.”

David Ian Sydenham on TrustPilot

Recent cases

How long will it take to make a claim?

As a general rule, cases should conclude between 12-18 months from the first time you contact us. However, each case is different and this may vary dependent on the facts.

How much compensation might you receive? How is it calculated?

The compensation you may receive will vary depending on what injury you sustain. For example, if you lose a tooth as a result of the failure to diagnose tooth decay, you will receive more than if you require fillings.

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 require fillings or extractions. 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.

The substandard care was handled by a dentist who has since retired. Can you sue a retired dentist?

You can sue a retired dentist, as long as your claim is not statute barred.

By law, all dentists must be registered with the General Dental Council (GDC), and must have appropriate indemnity and insurance arrangements in place; this allows patients to seek any compensation they may be entitled to.

Therefore, even after a dentist retires they will still be responsible for the treatment which was carried out when they were practising as a dentist.

How long do you have to make a claim?

You have three years to bring a claim of dental negligence, from the date of negligence or knowledge of it, under the laws concerning ‘limitation’ in England and Wales. These laws state that a Claimant must issue court proceedings within this time period, or else their claim would be statute barred.

Generally, we would advise you to contact us at least 6 months before the limitation period in your case is due to end. However, this can be reviewed on a case by case basis; if you believe that your limitation period may expire soon, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.

What are the Dental Negligence Team’s qualifications?

Our specialist team of dental negligence solicitors have been winning cases for clients for over a decade.

  • Experienced in every aspect of cases concerning failure to diagnose decay – If your dentist has failed to diagnose decay and you have suffered adversely as a result, leading to costly and invasive remedial treatment, we will know how to manage your claim. Our dental negligence solicitors and team have the necessary knowledge, experience and expertise to help.
  • Specialist advice for your negligence case – You want to know that you are getting the very best service that takes your needs into account. We have a national reputation for our work and represent clients from across the UK in dental negligence claims. We work closely with our dental experts who are also leading Consultants within their field, and will ensure that the best experts are working with us, for you, from start to finish.
  • An understanding approach – It’s not just an inconvenience to be the victim of substandard dental treatment, it can affect your life in a number of ways. We understand the impact that substandard dentistry can have, and our dental negligence solicitors and team will do all they can do help you get your life back on track.

Talk to us in confidence on

0800 923 2079 or request a call back

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