Dental Negligence FAQs

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What is dental negligence?

Dental negligence can be defined as avoidable injury caused by a dentist who fails to take reasonable care. Any case where a dentist has performed poorly, negligently or inappropriately, which results in avoidable harm being caused to a patient, could potentially lead to a dental negligence compensation claim.

What is dental malpractice?

Dental malpractice is another term for dental negligence, most commonly used in North America but sometimes used in the UK too. Any dental injury or sustained pain and suffering, which has been caused by a dental professional’s neglect or poor treatment, could potentially be part of a dental malpractice claim for financial compensation. The Dental Law Partnership are ideally placed to advise you on whether your compensation claim falls into the category of dental malpractice.

What is a dental claim?

This refers to the legal process available for you in order to receive financial compensation if you have been a victim of poor dental care and have sustained an avoidable injury or prolonged pain and suffering as a result. If you think that you might be able to make a dental claim, contact the Dental Law Partnership team to discuss the next steps.

Can you sue a dentist for bad work?

If you feel that your dentist has been negligent, and you have suffered as a result, then it might be possible for you to sue your dentist. This refers to avoidable injuries or dental pain, and extra treatment that was only required because you received substandard dentistry.

How to sue a dentist

If you think that you have been a victim of dental negligence, the first thing you should do is contact a specialist dental law expert, to discuss your experience and see if you might be able to make a claim. This will depend on your individual circumstances and the nature of your complaint, along with the severity of your injury, pain or suffering you have experienced as a result of the poor care you may have received.

How to complain about a dentist when no financial compensation is needed

If you just wish to complain about a dentist’s performance and do not need compensation, you must first make your complaint known to the dental practice or dentist who treated you, and follow any other steps outlined in the above complaints process. The procedure can be slightly different depending on whether you are a private or NHS patient.

If you feel that your dentist or practice could be putting other patients in danger, you can contact the General Dental Council directly, who are the regulatory body for dental professionals in the UK.

How to complain about a dentist:

If you’re unhappy with any of your dental treatment and are not needing compensation, there is a complaints process you can follow:

  • Complain to the dental practice. You can do this by letter if you don’t wish to make the complaint in person.
  • If you are an NHS patient, you can complain to NHS England about your care
  • If you still don’t get the resolution you’re looking for from NHS England, you can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, by calling 0345 015 4033
  • If you’re a private dental patient and you don’t resolve the complaint after contacting your dental practice, you can get in touch with the Dental Complaints Service for assistance
  • If you received NHS or private dental care that you feel was substandard, you can also raise your concerns with the General Dental Council (GDC), who regulate dental professionals in the UK

Of course, if you have suffered as a result of your treatment and have lost confidence in your dental practice, you might want to consider contacting an experienced dental negligence company, for legal advice, to see if you could make a financial compensation claim.

How much compensation might I get for dental negligence?

The amount of compensation that you could receive for a successful dental negligence claim will depend on a number of factors, which include:

  • The nature of the claim e.g. misdiagnosis, carelessness or poor technique by the dental professional
  • The severity and longevity of the injury, pain and suffering experienced by the claimant as a result of the dentist’s action or inaction
  • The extent to which further dental treatment is/was required to remedy the damage caused by the original negligence

Reasons to sue a dentist

If you have been unfortunate enough to receive sub-standard treatment or care from a dentist, you may be entitled to compensation and be able to make a dental negligence claim. Some of the main reasons people make a claim against their dentist or dental practice include:

  • For misdiagnosis, late diagnosis or a complete failure by the dental professional to diagnose a serious dental condition, which results in avoidable injury, pain or suffering
  • For injury caused by a poorly performed dental procedures or by carelessness
  • For financial loss as a result of having to pay for corrective treatment due to mistakes made by a dental professional
  • For loss of earnings if unable to work as a result of dental negligence
  • For physical and psychological trauma suffered as a result of dental negligence

How long is dental work guaranteed for?

Whether or not dental work is guaranteed will depend on the type of treatment or procedure performed and may differ between NHS treatment and private treatment.

For restorative treatment carried out by an NHS dentist, the defective work will usually be repaired or retreated for no charge if a problem occurs within 12 months of your original procedure or treatment taking place. This is usually the case for permanent treatments, such as:

  • Crowns
  • Fillings
  • Root Fillings
  • Porcelain veneers
  • Inlays

For private dental treatments, the work provided must be of satisfactory quality and many private dental practices will offer a time-limited guarantee for some work, especially if the patient requests it. The length of time for these guarantees will vary from practice to practice.

How long do I have to make a dental negligence claim?

The time limit for making a dental negligence claim is three years from the date negligence occurred, or that you became aware of the negligence. There are exceptions for patients under the age of 18 (whose three year window starts from their eighteenth birthday) and those suffering from mental illness (whose three years start from their recovery from the illness).

Dental negligence claims are not always straightforward and the process of gathering evidence can take some considerable time; therefore, it’s always recommended that those who feel they might have a claim, should seek expert dental legal representation as soon as possible after they experienced the negligent care.

What do I do if I need emergency dental treatment?

The first port of call when experiencing dental pain or requiring urgent treatment should always be your usual dentist. You can also contact the NHS helpline by ringing 111. They will be able to provide details of emergency and out-of-hours NHS dental services in your locality for an appointment as soon as is possible.

Can A&E help with dental problems?

In some circumstances and if your problem is urgent, you may be able to get some help with dental pain from A&E (Accident & Emergency) but only if:

  • You are bleeding significantly and the bleeding will not stop
  • You are in very severe pain that isn’t helped by painkillers
  • You have suffered trauma to your face, mouth or teeth as a result of an accident or injury

Regular dental treatment cannot be given by A&E departments and they will refer patients instead to the emergency and out-of-hours dental services unless they meet the above criteria. Recent research found that people going to A&E instead of seeking help from a dentist could be costing the NHS up to £18m a year.

Am I entitled to free dental work?

It’s possible for people in certain circumstances to get NHS dental work done for free. To be eligible for free dental treatment, you must meet one or more of the below criteria:

If you are:

  • under 18 years of age
  • under 19 years of age and in full-time education
  • pregnant, or have had a baby in the last 12 months
  • receiving dental treatment whilst staying in an NHS hospital, which is carried out by the hospital dentist
  • an NHS hospital dental service outpatient (although not all treatments may be free)

Or, if you or your partner receive the below; or if you’re under the age of 20 and are the dependent on someone in receipt of the below:

  • Income Support
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Universal Credit (if the criteria are met)

Or, if you’re named on:

  • a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate. If you don’t have a certificate, you can show your award notice; you qualify if you get Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits with a disability element (or both) and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less
  • a valid HC2 certificate (through the NHS Low Income Scheme)

If you are named on an HC3 certificate (through the NHS Low Income Scheme) for partial help with health costs, you will only have to pay for part of your treatment, the cost of which will be indicated on your certificate.

If I’ve already paid for NHS dental work but qualify for free treatment, can I get a refund?

If you qualified for free treatment at the time your NHS treatment started, you can apply for a refund, as long as you do so within 3 months of the date on which you paid for the treatment. This does not apply to any private dental treatment you may have received.

Click here to find out how to apply for a refund.

Can I get help paying for dental work?

The NHS Low Income Scheme

Those who are not exempt from NHS dental treatment charges but are on a low income and may not be able to afford dental work otherwise, may be entitled to partial or full help with costs from the NHS Low Income Scheme. The eligibility and amount of help available will depend on the applicant’s household income and outgoings. Anyone can apply, as long as they don’t have savings or investments over a certain limit.

An application form can be downloaded and printed and supporting evidence will need to be provided. This is usually in the form of proof of earnings for those who are employed, profit and loss accounts for those who are self-employed, and an award notice for students of any grants, bursaries, awards and any financial assessments carried out for any student loan applications.

If you have recently paid for dental treatment but think that you might qualify for the NHS Low Income Scheme, you might be able to claim a refund for some, or all, of the amount that you have paid. Refunds will need to be claimed within three months of the date on which you paid.

All of the forms required to apply for the scheme, and more details about who may qualify, can be found here.

How to finance dental work

Private dental work

Most cosmetic dentistry needs to be done privately, unless there is a clinical need for the work to be done, in which case, it may be covered by NHS treatment – you will need to ask your dentist about that. Some private clinics allow their patients to take out payment plans to gradually pay off the cost of their treatment. This should be discussed with your dental practice and the full cost of any treatment and aftercare should be understood before committing to the work being done.

Regular or emergency dental work can also be carried out by private dental professionals, and the cost of this will vary from practice to practice.

NHS dental work

For those who pay for their NHS dental work, in any of the three different bands of treatment, you will be expected to pay for your treatment when you receive it.

Should I stop dental treatment while my case is ongoing?