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Nerve injury can occur due to negligent dental treatment when the trigeminal nerve is disturbed.
The trigeminal nerve is the main nerve responsible for sensation in the face and motor functions such as biting and chewing.
There are three branches of the trigeminal nerve: the ophthalmic, maxillary, and mandibular. Given the proximity of the maxillary and mandibular nerve branches to the jaw and mouth, nerve injury can occur following dental treatment. Damage can also occur to the lingual nerve, the branch of the mandibular nerve that provides sensation to the tongue.
You may not be immediately aware that you have sustained an injury to a nerve and this can sometimes take a while to diagnose.
There are common symptoms that can occur following a nerve injury though, such as:
These symptoms can be fairly worrying and intrusive and can affect your ability to eat and even speak. If you are suffering from any of these symptoms then you may have sustained a nerve injury and should seek medical advice.
Nerve injury can occur because of normal dental treatment, so may not always arise due to negligent care. Nerve damage can be classified as a recognised complication. Examples of how nerve damage can arise are as follows:
Tooth extraction: nerve injuries can commonly occur after the extraction of a wisdom tooth. Although this is often seen as a recognised complication it is still important that you have been informed of the risk that nerve damage can occur as a result of the extraction.
Additionally, it is also important that your dentist has considered the proximity of the tooth to the surrounding nerves. This assessment would require a radiograph and will help the dentist explain the risks of the extraction to you. Sometimes nerve injuries can occur in other tooth extractions and once again can be negligent when the dentist has not considered the position of the surrounding nerves.
Implant treatment: nerve injuries following a dental implant can be caused in two ways. Either when a dentist mistakenly drills too far through the jaw canal, or when the implant itself is too long and asserts pressure onto the nerve.
Root canal treatment: Endodontic treatment is a dental procedure used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or becomes infected. This procedure is invasive and involves the dental practitioner removing the nerve and pulp from the tooth and thereafter cleaning and sealing the tooth.
Many complications can occur during this procedure and some complications (at their worst) can result in nerve damage. For example, sometimes the irrigant used to clean the canal (sodium hypochlorite) is negligently injected into the surrounding tissues of the mouth. This results in nerve damage or damage to the surrounding jaw by the mechanism of opening the root canal and negligently damaging the surrounding nerves.
The symptoms of nerve injury can persist temporarily and resolve themselves over time. Unfortunately, in some cases a nerve injury may be permanent. It can sometimes be hard to get any detailed advice through your NHS dentist on how your nerve injury is likely to recover.
If you have grounds for a dental negligence claim, part of the investigation will most likely involve an examination with a specialist practitioner that will be able to give you a firm view on exactly what nerve you have damaged and whether your nerve injury is likely to be permanent. In some serious cases, you may need ongoing treatment to deal with your symptoms which will affect how your compensation award is calculated.
£20,000 recovered for substandard implant placement which caused nerve damage
Katie Parr recovered £20,000 for a Claimant who received substandard implant treatment at her upper left first and second premolars (UL4 and UL5) which caused permanent nerve damage.
The Claimant suffered a large bleed after the implants were placed. When the bleeding stopped, she was left with a large swelling and a haematoma. She later began to experience pins and needles in her upper lift on the left hand side and reported a loss of sensation around her lip. The Claimant was then referred to a Neurologist who confirmed that her left maxillary nerve had been injured, either during the surgery itself, or as a result of the haematoma.
The Defendant had failed to take a CT scan prior to implant placement and as a result the pre-operative treatment planning had been poor. The Defendant had also failed to recognise that the Claimant required a bone graft prior to placing the implants. The Claimant was left with permanent nerve damage as a result.
£15,000 recovered for a substandard extraction which caused permanent nerve injury.
Sophie Angwin recovered £15,000 for a Claimant who had been left with nerve damage following a substandard extraction.
The Claimant’s lower left second premolar (LL5) hadn’t erupted and was causing infection. As such, the Claimant was advised that it required extraction. However, the extraction was very complicated and carried an increased risk of paraesthesia as a result.
The Defendant failed to obtain the Claimant’s informed consent and was negligent in carrying out the procedure in general practice, rather than referring the Claimant to hospital for this. The extraction was therefore substandard, and caused permanent nerve injury.
£20,000 recovered for a substandard extraction which caused permanent nerve injury.
Samantha Swaby recovered £20,000 for a Claimant who suffered permanent nerve injury to her bottom lip and chin as a result of a substandard extraction of retained roots.
Prior to extracting the Claimant’s retained roots, the Defendant failed to take appropriate x-rays to assess the shape of the roots and their proximity to the Claimant’s nerve. The Defendant also failed to obtain the Claimant’s informed consent for the procedure and carried out the extractions without reasonable skill and care.
As a result, the Claimant suffered numbness to her bottom lip and chin, which affected her smile, and avoidable pain and suffering. It was thought that this would be permanent.
As a general rule, cases should conclude between 18-24 months after the first time you contact us. However, each case is different and this may vary dependent on the facts.
Any compensation you receive will vary depending on what injury you sustain.
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.