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Negligent Crown And Bridgework

Where a patient has crowns and/or bridges placed, there are a number of ways in which negligent crown and bridgework may be provided. The fit of the crown or bridgework may be poor, and given that the purpose of such dental work is usually to improve the appearance of the teeth, if the outcome is cosmetically unpleasant, there may be a claim. In addition, the key purpose of this type of restorative dentistry is to maintain or improve the teeth’s function. If your function has been affected following the provision of crowns and/or bridges, then you may also have a claim.

Negligent crown and bridge work

What are crowns and bridges?

Crowns and bridges are both examples of restorative dentistry.

A crown is a covering which sits over a tooth or an implant in order to make it functional. They should, according to dental experts, remain functional for approximately 15 years, but they can last considerably longer than that.

The lifespan of a crown will depend on a number of factors, including the health of the tooth, how well it is cared for, and whether it was properly fitted by the dentist in the first place.

Comparatively, a bridge is a fixed replacement for a missing tooth. There are three main types of bridges:

  • Cantilever bridges – used when there are teeth on only one side of the missing tooth or teeth.
  • Traditional bridges – where the teeth on each side of the missing tooth are prepared for dental crowns and a dental bridge is made including a tooth between them.
  • Maryland bonded bridges – where the surrounding teeth provide a platform for the bridge to attach to. The bridge is a resin and metal frame which fuses onto your surrounding teeth.

Bridges normally last for 5-15 years, but this too is dependent on oral hygiene levels and regular check-ups with your dental practitioner.

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What can go wrong when crowns or bridges are fitted negligently?

There are a number of issues that can arise when a crown or bridge is fitted negligently. Please click below if you are experiencing any of the following:

ILL-FITTING CROWN

A crown doesn’t fit well. Is this negligent?

Whilst fitting a crown, a dentist should make sure that there is no gap between the crown and the gum-line (i.e. the crown is of a good marginal fit), and ensure that all visible cement is removed from the surface of the crown and gum. If a crown has a poor fit, it can lead to difficulties in cleaning the teeth, which in turn can lead to gum inflammation and bleeding. The fit of the crown should be adequate to allow you to clean around and between your teeth. If the dentist fails to do this, it may be negligent and could cause the tooth underneath the crown to decay.

Sometimes crowns can fall out if there is not enough tooth structure to hold the crown in place; generally when the original tooth was very weak or small.

If a dentist files down a tooth too much prior to fitting the crown (please see the below section on “over-preparation” on this point), then this can also cause a crown to fit poorly. This too may be negligent treatment.

In our experience, the dentistry behind the fitting of a crown is a huge contributing factor to the lifespan of a crown. Any dentist fitting a crown should have the relevant experience to carry out such treatment. If they do not, and a person suffers from having a poorly fitting crown, that may be negligent and give rise to a claim.

 

TOOTH DECAY UNDER A CROWN

You’ve been told that there’s decay under a crown. How has this happened?

Decay under a crown can occur in two ways. If a crown is poorly fitting, this can allow decay to form under the crown, leading to the eventual loss of the tooth.

Alternatively, prior to fitting a crown, a dentist should remove any decay present in the tooth, x-ray the area to ensure it is suitable for a crown and also make sure that there is no existing infection or gum disease that may require treatment.

If a dentist fails to take x-rays to check for infection or gum disease, decay could develop which can also lead to the eventual loss of the tooth. Both are negligent, so if you have experienced this you should contact us as soon as possible.

IT DOESN'T IMPROVE THE APPEARANCE OF YOUR TEETH

You’re left really unhappy with the aesthetics of a crown or bridge. Have you been subject to substandard treatment?

Given that the purpose of a crown or bridge is usually to improve the appearance of your teeth, if the outcome is cosmetically unpleasant, there may be a claim.

If you are unhappy with the aesthetics of your crown or bridge, you should consider seeking a second opinion from a different dentist and contact us to discuss this further.

IT HASN'T LASTED AS LONG AS YOU HOPED

You’ve been left very unhappy with the lifespan of a crown or bridge. Has something gone wrong with the treatment?

As stated above, the average lifespan of a crown is approximately 15 years, and a bridge 5-15 years.

If your crown or bridge doesn’t last this long, it may well be that something has gone wrong with your treatment. This can be particularly frustrating as dental treatment is often expensive.

If this applies to you, we would encourage you to contact us in order to discuss this further.

YOUR TEETH WERE 'OVER-PREPARED'

You have been told that your teeth were over-prepared for a crown or bridge. Have you been subject to substandard treatment? 

Yes, if a dentist has over-prepared your teeth prior to placing a crown or bridge, you may have been subject to dental negligence.

The main symptom of over-prepared teeth is sensitivity, so if you are concerned about this we would encourage you to see your dentist.

Unfortunately, over-preparation of a tooth can have serious consequences, even leading to the loss of a tooth, so if you have suffered from this you may have been subject to negligence.

YOUR BRIDGE FALLS OUT OFTEN

Your bridge sometimes falls out. Is this as a result of negligence?

Prior to fitting a bridge, a dentist must take impressions to ensure that the bite of the bridge will mirror the patient’s original teeth. If this stage is substandard, a patient may experience prolonged issues with their bite, causing them to feel as though their teeth do not meet together. This can also cause a bridge to feel as though it is “rocking”, or about to fall out.

If your dentist fails to rectify this or you experience persistent issues with your bridge, this may indicate negligent treatment.

Bridgework is a complicated area of dentistry, which means that bridges can fail for a variety of reasons. If your bridge has fallen out, you may have an issue with the abutment teeth (the teeth supporting the bridge), including fractures, decay or leakage.

In some circumstances, decay may not have been diagnosed and treated and this can cause the bridge to fail within a matter of months or a few years of being placed.

Sometimes, when a bridge fails it is possible to treat the teeth and the teeth may still be suitable for new bridgework. However, in some cases, the bridgework has failed to such a degree that the abutment teeth are compromised and dental implants may be the next suitable option to restore the missing tooth/teeth.

If you have experienced issues with your bridge falling out, please contact us to discuss a potential claim.


How long will it take to make a claim?

As a general rule, cases concerning substandard crown or bridgework should come to a conclusion between 18-24 months after 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?

Any compensation you receive will vary depending on what injury you sustain. For example, if you require an extraction of one of your teeth resulting from substandard crown or bridgework,  you will receive more compensation than if you suffer a period of pain as a result of negligence.

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 an implant and an implant retained crown, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as a result of a psychiatric injury sustained due to negligence. 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 treatment was done 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.

 

Talk to us in confidence on

0800 923 2079 or request a call back

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