Father-of-three is left with irreversible facial numbness following serious dental maltreatment
The 49-year-old civil servant was referred for treatment of a problematic wisdom tooth to Dr Willis McLean Kabambe. However, it was Dr Kabambe’s failure to inform Graham of the alternative treatment options available, that left him with permanent numbness on the left-hand side of his face. If Graham had been given all the information concerning the risks and consequences he needed to make an appropriate and informed decision the nerve damage would not have occurred.
Dr Kabambe should have offered Graham the option of a coronectomy, a procedure that is used when the wisdom tooth is particularly close to the nerve. It involves removing the top of the tooth and leaving the roots in place, greatly reducing the risk of nerve damage.
Graham explained: “After my wisdom tooth became infected on three occasions and I started spitting blood when I brushed them, my dentist referred me to get it removed. I met with specialist, Dr Kabambe at Goodleigh Dental Practice in September 2013.
“Despite it being an invasive and serious procedure, Dr Kabambe didn’t provide adequate information regarding the possible risks or that there were other procedures I could have. He actually spoke to me for no more than a few minutes! He was very brief and provided scant information about the procedure. When he did speak with me, he completely misled me as to the proximity of the tooth to the nerve. On the X-ray, he indicated where both the tooth and nerve were, but assured me that he wouldn’t be going anywhere near the nerve.
“He also failed to advise me that, because of my age I was at a greater risk of nerve damage. There was a serious lack of detail on the implications, especially around the possibility of nerve damage as a result of the treatment.”
After assuring Graham that he was unlikely to sustain a nerve injury, Dr Kabambe commenced the procedure, despite not being a specialist in oral and maxillofacial surgery. Leading UK law firm, the Dental Law Partnership, which has brought legal action against Dr Kabambe following his gross incompetence in handling Graham’s treatment, was presented with evidence that showed that he failed to undertake a number of necessary steps prior to surgery.
Daniel Kinnear, associate solicitor at Dental Law Partnership explained: “Prior to the extraction of Graham’s wisdom tooth, Dr Kabambe should have taken a CT scan, which would have visually determined the exact location of the inferior dental nerve. He failed to advise Graham that the root complex of the wisdom tooth was in close proximity to the inferior dental nerve, which meant there was an higher than average chance of a nerve injury due to extraction. He also failed to inform Graham that there were alternative treatment options available to him which would reduce the risk of nerve injury.”
Graham, who is married to Juliet (44), endured incredible pain during the procedure, he said: “It was very distressing having the tooth taken out. Although it took only around ten minutes for Dr Kabambe to complete the procedure, it felt considerably longer. He managed to remove part of the tooth initially and then the rest. When he’d finished, I was relieved that he’d stopped jumping around in my mouth.”
Following the extraction, Dr Kabambe advised Graham how to clean the hole that the tooth had left, prescribed antibiotics and sent him home.
“Once the anaesthetic had worn off, I was in incredible pain and took some pain killers but they didn’t ease it. I had the procedure on Wednesday morning and by Thursday afternoon, 36 hours after I’d been treated by Dr Kabambe, I became aware that I couldn’t feel anything on the left-hand side of my face and realised that there must have been nerve damage.
“I went back to Goodleigh Dental Practice on the Friday but, although he had conducted the procedure there, Dr Kabambe wasn’t based there permanently, so I was seen by another dentist at the practice and he advised me there was nothing he could do for me. He told me I had to wait three weeks before anything further could be done,” explained Graham.
Graham left the surgery, still in a great deal of pain, he said: “My face was tingling, although it was numb, it was very uncomfortable numbness and when I touched it, I felt a sharp pain. I wasn’t really eating and could only manage soup.”
Three weeks after the procedure, with his face still numb, Graham went back to his regular dentist. Graham said: “I explained to him that I didn’t know what to do about the numbness. It was affecting my speech, I felt like I’d had a stroke. The left-hand side of my face felt dead.”
Graham was referred to King’s College Hospital in London to the country’s leading expert in treating people with trigeminal nerve injuries and orofacial pain.
“She checked my X-rays and informed me that because of the location of the tooth, I was at high risk of nerve damage. She was appalled that the procedure had gone ahead without me being fully informed of the risks or the alternatives. In terms of treating the nerve damage, she explained that she could operate and it may improve, but that it was unlikely. She advised me that the best course of action to repair nerve damage is to treat it as soon as it’s occurred, ideally within three weeks!”
Graham said: “In January 2014, following a further visit to my oral surgeon. She criticised the care provided by Dr Kabambe, expressing that the nerve damage could have been avoided with a due diligent risk assessment, appropriate pre-operative additional assessment, modification of surgical technique and immediate referral on nerve injury post-surgery.”
Following this appointment Graham instructed Dental Law Partnership to take on his case. The case was settled and Graham received £16,000 in damages, however, Dr Kabambe did not admit liability.
Concluding, Graham said: “In the three months following the procedure, I lost two-and-a-half stone as I’d completely lost my appetite and I had reduced taste. It affected my confidence, especially when I was front of house at work and talking to people, I was very self-conscious. I still can’t feel my gum, teeth and lip.
“The settlement has somewhat remedied the feeling of injury but it won’t bring back the feeling in my face. I trusted a professional to do his job properly and he let me down.”