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Negligent Wisdom Teeth Extraction

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    The extraction of wisdom teeth is one of the most common procedures carried out in the UK. Extraction may be required if a wisdom tooth is decayed, if there is not enough space in a person’s mouth to accommodate the tooth, if a wisdom tooth erupts in the wrong direction, or if a wisdom tooth becomes impacted.

    Although wisdom teeth extractions are common procedures, they are not without significant risk. Unfortunately, nerve damage following the extraction of a wisdom tooth is not uncommon. It is therefore essential, before undertaking the surgery, for a dentist to take x-rays. These will show the position of the roots of the wisdom teeth in relation to the inferior dental nerve.

    Sometimes damage can also occur to the lingual nerve, which affects the tongue, so it is important that these x-rays are always taken.

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    Common issues caused by negligence

    If you have had a wisdom tooth extracted negligently, you may have experienced some of the following issues. Find out more by clicking on the problem you have experienced.


    You suffered nerve damage after a wisdom tooth was removed. Is this negligent?

    Nerve damage is a recognised complication following the extraction of a wisdom tooth, so generally nerve damage does not indicate substandard treatment.

    However, sometimes nerve damage can be attributed to negligent dental treatment. For example, when:

    • there is a failure to take x-rays before extracting a wisdom tooth – it is vital that the dentist carries out x-rays to determine whether the roots of a wisdom tooth are in close proximity to the nerve. If damage appears likely, it is then a decision for the dental practitioner and the patient what treatment should be recommended and undertaken. In many cases, the patient should be referred to an oral surgeon for further consultation.
    • a patient isn’t referred to an oral surgeon – if the extraction of a wisdom tooth is beyond the capabilities of a general dental practitioner (namely when the tooth is in close proximity to the inferior nerve), it may therefore be negligent for the practitioner to fail to refer that patient to a specialist.
    • informed consent for the procedure (as detailed below) is not given.

    What is informed consent and why is it important?

    Prior to the extraction of a wisdom tooth, a dentist must describe all available treatment options (including the cost of each treatment option), and explain the risks and benefits associated with each of them.

    If a dentist fails to advise their patient of a particular risk and discuss it, a patient may have a claim for dental negligence if that risk becomes a reality.

    To give an example, let’s say a patient needs their wisdom tooth extracted, so they attend their dentist. Prior to extracting the tooth, the dentist fails to advise the patient that they may suffer nerve damage as a result of the treatment. After the extraction, the patient finds that they have been left with nerve damage. The patient may have a claim for dental negligence in this circumstance, if they can prove that they would not have gone ahead with the procedure had they been aware of this risk.


    You suffered an infection after the wisdom tooth was removed. Is this negligent?

    An infection following a wisdom tooth extraction is a ‘recognised risk’, and therefore does not generally indicate substandard care.

    It is not necessarily negligent for a dentist to not prescribe antibiotics after an extraction. However, a patient may have a dental negligence claim if:

    • they return to the practice with pain, limited mouth opening, pus from the socket and feverish symptoms yet the dentist still doesn’t prescribe antibiotics
    • they return to the practice with the above symptoms, yet the practitioner does not refer them for further treatment
    • they are at high risk of an infection following an extraction (for instance, if they smoke, are diabetic, have poor oral hygiene) and the practitioner did not provide antibiotics at the first instance
    • the dentist did not advise the patient of the risk of an infection prior to the extraction, i.e. if the dentist did not obtain informed consent for the procedure (as detailed above).


    The dentist failed to recognise that wisdom teeth were impacted. Is this negligent?

    If you have been returning to your dentist complaining of pain from your back teeth, and were later advised that your wisdom teeth are impacted (stuck in the gum and unable to come through), yes you may have a successful dental negligence claim. Please contact us if you have found yourself in this circumstance.


    You suffered a fractured mandible following a wisdom tooth extraction. Is this negligent?

    A fractured mandible (jaw) is an unfortunate, yet recognised, risk associated with wisdom tooth extractions.

    However, a patient who has suffered a fractured mandible may have a dental negligence claim if:

    • they have a confirmed fracture of the jaw (this will be diagnosed after at least two separate x-rays have been taken by an Oral Maxillofacial Specialist or an Oral Surgeon, generally in hospital), and the initial extraction was particularly difficult. This will generally occur in situations in which the wisdom teeth were impacted or had not fully come through the gum, and when the patient should have been referred to a hospital for the extraction.
    • they have a confirmed fracture of the jaw (in the circumstance detailed above) and the dentist failed to warn them of this risk prior to the procedure, i.e. the dentist failed to obtain the patient’s informed consent.


    A dentist failed to diagnose decay in your wisdom teeth. Is this negligent?

    If your dentist fails to diagnose decay in one of your wisdom teeth and the decay worsens as a result, this is likely negligent. If you have been affected by this, please contact us to discuss this further.

    How long will it take to make a claim?

    As a general rule, cases should come to a conclusion between 12-18 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?

    The compensation you may receive will vary depending on what injury you sustain. For example, if you sustain permanent nerve damage as a result of a wisdom tooth extraction, you will receive more than if you suffer a period of pain as a result of a substandard extraction.

    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 treatment for nerve damage, 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 wisdom tooth extraction 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.


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