Dental shop of horrors: root canal treatment goes horribly wrong as dentist snaps drill off in patient’s mouth
Alison Southwood, a sales and innovation manager in the water industry, recently won a 16 month legal battle and £5,500 in damages after successfully suing her dentist with the help of specialist negligence solicitors, the Dental Law Partnership. Alison’s former dentist, Dr Meena Aduma of Genix Healthcare on Dugdale Road, Cirencester, claimed that the fracturing of the instrument amounted to ‘a non-negligent complication’ of the procedure, but the Dental Law Partnership were able to prove this to be false.
As a result of the drill snapping off in the base of the patient’s tooth, just missing a nerve in her jaw that could have resulted in nerve damage in the tooth, Alison’s treatment was compromised and the tooth was left to decay further. Following many painful months and consultations with a specialist endodontic practitioner, it was determined that the tooth was beyond saving and was extracted in preparation for a dental implant, which will need to be drilled into Alison’s jawbone.
Senior solicitor, Tim Armitage at the Dental Law Partnership, said: “Root canal treatments are carried out routinely and without incident every day. Alison’s dentist failed to use reasonable care and skill to ensure the instrumentation was confined to the tooth root canal only and to avoid perforation into the bone. X-rays taken after the treatment confirmed that the instrument extended 8mm beyond the base of the tooth. Dr Aduma is a fully qualified NHS dentist, with the appropriate level of training and experience that should have ensued this situation never occurred. In my opinion, a trauma like this is a clear case of negligence.”
Despite the settlement, Dr Aduma made no admissions of liability for the incident, which left Alison with a painful and rotting tooth for over 6 months. While the tooth has now been removed, Alison will be forced to endure a further six to nine months of remedial treatment, as well as having to accept a gap in her smile until a replacement tooth can be fitted.
Recollecting how she felt when the damage was caused, Alison said: “I immediately knew something was wrong. My mouth was numbed so I couldn’t feel it when the drill snapped off, but a hush descended on the room while the dentist and dental nurse exchanged worried glances between each other before shuffling out for a private discussion. When they came back, Dr Aduma explained what had happened and that there was no way to remove the drill, so they were going to simply fill in the hole and send me home.
“I was in shock, just going through the motions and letting them get on with treatment so I could get out of there as soon as possible. When I finally left the chair, clearly visibly shaken, another dentist at the practice tried to calm me down, telling me not to worry, that it happens all the time – they just usually don’t tell the patients! I didn’t know what to say. I was totally dumfounded.”
Eventually faced with extraction of the tooth as her only viable treatment option, so unusual was Alison’s case that she struggled to find a dentist capable of executing the repair work.
“The drill was lodged so near my nerve that there was a major concern that removing it would lead to a loss of sensation in my jaw, tongue and lip”, said Alison. “I’ve been referred to several different dental practices over the last 18 months or more, but all have been too nervous to attempt treatment. In the meantime, my tooth has continued to decay to the point where I’ve had to have it extracted. While I wait for the implant to be fitted, I have a visible gap in my smile, not to mention that I will now have to have a false tooth, years before anyone would reasonably expect me to.”
Lawyers at the Dental Law Partnership took on Alison’s case in November 2013, eventually reaching an out of court settlement with Dr Aduma in February 2015, for damages in the amount of £5,500, though Dr Aduma did not admit any liability.
Alison said: “I’m not a litigious person, but the settlement money was necessary to cover the cost of the specialists and the fitting of an implant. The Dental Law Partnership has been very supportive throughout the process and agreed to help me fight my case despite other firms turning me down. It’s been a long process, but I was kept informed throughout and I’m pleased that the sum I’ve received will cover my treatment costs.
“I’m not looking forward to having the implant fitted – I know it will be painful – but hopefully once it’s complete, I can put this nightmare behind me. Whatever happens, I know that I will never be able to get back in the dentist’s chair for another root canal treatment and hope to avoid ever having to go through anything like this again.”