• 43-year-old Susan Merkell left with permanent nerve damage after extraction of her wisdom tooth went wrong
• She suffered weeks of agony and months of migraines as well as the permanent loss of sensation in her tongue
• £70,000 awarded in compensation
Mrs Susan Merkell, a 43-year-old foster carer from Orpington, London, has received £70,000 in compensation from her local hospital with the help of specialist dental negligence solicitors, the Dental Law Partnership.
Mrs Merkell visited Queen Mary’s Hospital, London between October 2012 and November 2013.
“I visited my regular dentist in February 2012 and they recommended I have my wisdom teeth extracted in hospital,” Mrs Merkell said. “The gum was partially growing over them so they kept getting infected. My dentist said the best course of action was to have them removed, and referred me to hospital.”
One of Mrs Merkell’s teeth was extracted in December 2012.
Then in early 2013, Mrs Merkell returned to have her second wisdom tooth extracted. “It was a horror show,” she said. “The dentist slipped with what looked like a chisel and ended up sprawled across me while the implement was jutting out of my jaw.
“The pain was horrific. I hadn’t been anaesthetised properly so he kept injecting me but it didn’t help. It was a nightmare. It was like all my teeth were trying to leave my mouth at once,” Mrs Merkell continued.
Immediately following the procedure she experienced swelling. When she woke up the next morning, Mrs Merkell’s tongue and mouth were still numb, so she returned to hospital yet again after the symptoms persisted.
She was informed that the symptoms would settle down over time, but actually they worsened. Mrs Merkell began to experience a burning sensation in her tongue after six months. Shortly after the burning sensation developed she also started to experience chronic headaches.
Mrs Merkell had several more visits to the hospital complaining of the same symptoms, but she was consistently reassured that her symptoms could improve.
“It was affecting every aspect of my life,” Mrs Merkell said. “I was constantly biting my tongue because it was numb, so I always had a mouth full of painful ulcers. Worse than the physical discomfort was the mental trauma I was going through. I had been living with hope that one day all this would miraculously clear up, but when I finally saw a specialist she told me it was too late to repair the nerve damage. This sent me into depression.
“In 2015 I suffered a bout of food poisoning so couldn’t eat. When I realised this was slightly relieving me of my symptoms I stopped eating at all and only consumed liquids. I rapidly lost seven stone, which wrecked my gall bladder causing acute cholecystitis and necessitating emergency surgery,” she continued.
Mrs Merkell contacted the Dental Law Partnership. Analysis of her dental records revealed that the hospital had failed to use due skill and care when extracting her wisdom tooth, which had led to the permanent nerve damage she suffered. She still lives with a burning sensation in her tongue, facial pain and numbness across her mouth today.
“The whole thing was a nightmare,” Mrs Merkell said. “The impact the treatment had on my life was profound. It affected my mood, which affected my relationships with my husband and my family, it’s been terrible.”
Daniel Kinnear of the Dental Law Partnership commented: “The clinician’s inability to take sufficient care when extracting this wisdom tooth had a profound impact on all facets of our client’s life and was eminently avoidable. I am pleased that the NHS Trust accepted responsibility and eventually compensated our client fairly.”
The Dental Law Partnership took on Mrs Merkell’s case in 2015. The case was successfully settled in 2019 when the paid £70,000 in an out of court settlement. The hospital admitted breach of duty.