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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:
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.
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:
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.
Samantha Swaby acted for a Claimant who received £5,000 as a result of the failure of his dentist to monitor tooth decay.
He had been a registered patient with the same dental practice since 2003, at which time he was 13 years old. He attended regularly and was told that his oral hygiene was good. No treatment was carried out, except one filling to his upper right first molar (UR6) in March 2012.
In November 2012, the Claimant attended an appointment with a different dentist, and was told that he required fillings to five teeth. These fillings were invasive, as the decay could have been diagnosed much earlier and had progressively worsened.
Katie Parr acted for a Claimant who received £7,500 for the failure to diagnose dental decay.
The Claimant had been a patient of the same dental practice since she was 3 years old. She was a regular attender and had never required invasive dental treatment. In May 2013 (at which point the Claimant was 27 years old), she attended an appointment with a different dentist and was advised that she required fillings in seven teeth. The Claimant went back to the Defendant for these fillings. In October 2015, she attended with a third dentist and was told that she required another four fillings.
It was claimed that the Defendant had failed to monitor the decay during examinations, take regular x-rays and provide appropriate advice, meaning that the decay had worsened overtime.
Samantha Swaby acted for a Claimant who received £14,750 for the failure to diagnose decay on four teeth and for substandard root canal treatment between 2006 and 2013.
The Claimant had been a patient of the same practice since 2006. She attended regularly for six-monthly check-ups. During that time, the Defendant carried out root canal treatment to the Claimant’s upper right first premolar (UR4).
In June 2014, the Claimant attended an appointment with a new dentist. They undertook a comprehensive examination and took x-rays, which showed that three of the Claimant’s teeth had decayed and that the root canal treatment to the Claimant’s UR4 had been substandard. The Claimant was told that these four teeth required extraction.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Our specialist team of dental negligence solicitors have been winning cases for clients for over a decade.