Posted in Medical Negligence on 16 July 2014

There has been an increase in recent years in the numbers of Dental Negligence cases which is probably attributable to a number of factors including the growth in general orthodontic procedures as well as elective cosmetic dentistry (e.g. teeth whitening) being conducted in Ireland.

Dentists are legally recognised as medical practitioners under the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 and have obligations to conduct dental procedures to a high standard
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In order to establish if there is a dental negligence case, it is firstly necessary to obtain a copy of all of your relevant dental records. These will need to be examined in consultation with you for the purposes of ascertaining what exactly went wrong and whether or not such actions/events constitute Dental Negligence, within the existing legal framework.

Just because you may not have been satisfied with a dental treatment you received this does not necessarily amount to negligence.

In order to prove that a dentist is negligent, it is necessary to establish that no reasonably competent dental practitioner in the relevant field, at the relevant time, with the same qualifications and expertise, faced with the same circumstances, would have acted in the same way.

If it is possible to show that a reasonable and competent body of dental opinion would have acted in the same way, then the care is not considered negligent.

The second hurdle which has to be overcome is that of causation. This links the dental negligence (if established) with the ultimate unfortunate outcome. In other words, it needs to be established that but for the error on the part of the dentist(s) the injury/poor result would not have occurred.  If this cannot be proven, there is no case in Dental Negligence.

As with all dental procedures, sometimes there are adverse outcomes in dental treatment for non-negligent reasons.

Typical examples of dental negligence include the following:

Nerve Damage
Some teeth are located next to an important nerve.   A dentist should, in some cases, take an x-ray prior to carrying out an extraction to locate so that he can be sure where the root is relevant to the nerve.  If the nerve is damaged during the course of an extraction and no x-ray is taken, this may amount to negligence. 

Specialised Work
There is a range of recognised sub-specialties of dentistry, such as Periodontics, Orthodontics, Prosthodontics, Endodontics and Oral & Maxillofacial.

A dentist should only carry out procedures where he is qualified to do so.  

Crowns / Veneers
Crowns and veneers can be placed negligently.  If a crown does not match the bite surface of the original tooth correctly, it can lead to chronic dental pain and/or the development of periodontal disease beneath the veneers. Problems can arise because the remaining tooth has not been properly prepared for the crown.    Problems may arise with the bite surface.   Failure to prepare the tooth to avoid infection may result in disease beneath the veneer.

Tooth Whitening
Damage such as significant sensitivity, chemical burns or an over bleached appearance may be caused by the excess strength in bleaching chemicals.  

Statute of Limitations/Time Limits in Dental Negligence
It is important to note the law in relation to the Statute of Limitations. The time limits within which a case can be taken is two years from the date of the dental negligence.  In the case of persons with intellectual impairment or in the case of Minors (persons under the age of 18 years) the time limits are extended by the legislation. There is also an allowance made by the law for those who did not have knowledge of the wrongdoing (or alternatively that the person did not have knowledge that the wrongdoing caused the injury) and in these circumstances, the time may be extended. For further advice on these issues, you are strongly advised to contact a member of the Medical Negligence Team at Cantillons Solicitors in order to ascertain what the specific time limits are in your case.

Level of compensation for dental malpractice/negligence
Like any personal injury case*, this will vary according to the circumstances and the severity of the damage caused.  You may however be entitled to:

  • damages for pain and suffering (both physical and psychological),

  • out of pocket expenses including loss of earnings,

  • Dental expenses including a refund of any monies already paid to the treating Dentist and also any expenses incurred or likely to be incurred in addressing the damage caused to you.

If you are a patient who has been affected by dental negligence, or if you have concerns about the dental treatment which you have received contact Cantillons Solicitors.

Contact us at Cantillons Solicitors at +353 (0)21 -4275673 or [email protected] if you would like more information.

* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage of any award or settlement.


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