21-year-old girl from Milton Keynes will wear retainers for the rest of her life due to the inaction of her local dentist
Lauren Field, a 21-year-old university graduate from Milton Keynes, has successfully obtained £10,000 in compensation from her local dentist with the help of specialist dental negligence solicitors, the Dental Law Partnership. Failures by the dentist to manage one of Lauren’s baby teeth meant one of her adult canine teeth did not erupt properly and Lauren then had to have avoidable orthodontic treatment. She now faces the prospect of wearing retainers for the rest of her life.
In 2005, when a strange lump appeared on Miss Field’s upper left gum underneath her last remaining baby tooth, her mother took her to visit their regular family dentist, Dr Ashwin Bechar of Stantonbury Health Centre in Milton Keynes. She was concerned that the baby tooth had not dropped out and could be causing the problem.
“At this point I was 10 years old,” Miss Field explained. “We expected Dr Bechar to pull the tooth out but he insisted that it would fall out naturally on its own.”
But over the next four years Miss Field’s baby tooth had still not fallen out and her adult tooth began to protrude out of her gum above her existing baby tooth, causing her significant pain. Miss Field returned to Dr Bechar several times with her mother, who asked repeatedly if she could be refereed to an orthodontist, but Dr Bechar did not make a referral.
Miss Field said: “A white lump appeared in my gum but still Dr Bechar insisted that my baby tooth would fall out of its own accord. But it didn’t – my adult tooth began to grow out horizontally, which cut against my lip, making it bleed. It also caused me to have awful ulcers and I couldn’t brush my teeth properly because it hurt so much.”
The lump was so big that even when Miss Field had her mouth closed the protrusion appeared like a facial disfigurement – a lump on her face – which unsurprisingly affected her confidence at school.
“When I closed my mouth, you could see a lump on the side of my face – I felt really embarrassed as kids in school would point it out,” Miss Field added. “Plus, when I opened my mouth you could see the tooth sticking out of my gum. It made me so self-conscious and my confidence really suffered.”
In July 2010, Miss Field’s mother made an urgent appointment with Dr Bechar to discuss why her daughter’s baby tooth had not yet fallen out, and pointed out the considerable pain and facial disfigurement her daughter was suffering from the protruding adult tooth. Yet Dr Bechar still assured her all was fine.
Between 2011 and 2013, Miss Field and her mother sought out second opinions from three different dentists. They were shocked to find out that, now, due to Miss Field’s age, a referral to an orthodontist was no longer available on the NHS and a private referral would be needed, at a significant cost. Eventually in 2014, at the age of 18, Miss Field was referred to an orthodontist on a private basis.
“When the orthodontist saw me he was shocked and appalled,” Miss Field recalls. “He asked why I had not been referred sooner, and we had to explain that I had been asking for a referral for years!”
The orthodontist told Miss Field her baby tooth would need to be extracted and braces fitted to correct her teeth, but that the procedure would not be nearly as straightforward as it might have been when she was a child. Because the problem had been left for so long it would be tougher to fit the braces because her teeth had now settled and would be more difficult to move.
“The procedure was very painful and unsettling for me,” Miss Field explained. Having braces fitted when I was 19 was probably the worst experience of my life. It was so painful I just burst out crying. I had them fitted when I came back from University for the Christmas holidays. I was in so much pain I couldn’t eat any Christmas dinner on Christmas Day.”
A specialist has since advised that Miss Field will have to wear retainers for the rest of her life.
Miss Field said: “It’s so frustrating because, had Dr Bechar taken the right action immediately, it would have saved me so much time and suffering. Instead I am having to go through this traumatic experience as an adult. I am having to wear braces to job interviews, which makes me feel so self-conscious because I think they’re not going to take me seriously. Dr Bechar was our family dentist, he seemed like he was doing his best for us and we trusted him but he let us down.”
Heather Owen, associate solicitor at the Dental Law Partnership, said: “The way our client has suffered was completely unnecessary. Dr Bechar should have realised it was not normal or healthy for Miss Field’s deciduous canine tooth to persist like it did – blocking the eruption of the adult tooth – and he should have extracted it to encourage the permanent tooth to erupt. If the procedure of extracting the baby tooth had been undertaken to fix the problem at an early stage, Miss Field would have avoided orthodontic treatment and pain and distress. Consequently, Miss Field required orthodontic treatment and was left with a visible baby tooth until the age of 19. ”
The Dental Law Partnership took on Miss Field’s case in October 2014 and the case was successfully settled in May 2016 when Dr Bechar paid £10,000 compensation in an out of court settlement. Dr Bechar did not admit liability.
If Lauren’s case sounds familiar to you and you think you may need to talk to someone about a potential case of dental negligence, call us on 0808 231 8838.