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Prevention is Better Than Cure – Poor Oral Health, Dental Negligence and You

Taking care of your oral health is paramount for all, yet numerous individuals in the UK still struggle with dental health issues such as tooth decay or gum disease. You’ve likely heard the age-old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ before – it’s a particularly apt term when discussing oral health issues.

Opting for a preventive approach to oral health care not only fosters a healthier smile, but it also mitigates the need for invasive treatments and costly procedures later in life. Moreover, maintaining good oral hygiene naturally lowers the likelihood of encountering instances of dental negligence, as you’ll likely need to have fewer procedures carried out.

However, if you think you might have suffered from dental negligence and you’d like to find out more about making a claim, our specialist firm of dental solicitors will be happy to help – just call our expert team on 0800 152 2031 and we’ll get started.

Understanding the Impact of Poor Oral Health

Having poor oral health can have far-reaching consequences across your life, which can often be made worse by the ageing process. Whilst some oral health issues can be mitigated later in life, other health problems are irreversible past a certain point, which may require you to have further dental treatments.. Neglecting good oral hygiene practices and missing dental appointments can lead to a range of dental problems across the board, including:

  • Gum disease

If these health problems are left untreated, they can progress and potentially lead to more severe complications, such as:

  • Tooth loss
  • Systematic health conditions (such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes)

That’s not all though. If you do not have regular check-ups on your teeth, your dentist will not be able to diagnose any potential health issues, which can be particularly problematic for things like oral cancer.

Of course, it can be hard to find a suitable dentist nowadays, particularly if you’re searching for NHS dental services. However, if you’re struggling to find a suitable dental practice,  and you can’t find an appointment immediately. You should stick to a regular cleaning regimen, including routine brushing and flossing. 

If you’re searching for a dentist in your local area, the NHS provides a search function which you can access here.

The Link Between Poor Oral Health and Poor Mental Health

Not only does poor oral health care affect your teeth and gums, but it can also hinder your overall well-being. There is a definitive link between poor mental health and poor oral health, as studies have shown that people with mental health issues are much more likely to suffer from problems with their teeth too.

People with mental health issues are more likely to neglect their teeth, as reported by Dental Nursing in 2021. Patients diagnosed with a severe mental health disorder were found to be almost 50 times more likely to suffer from periodontal disease (gum disease) than people without similar mental health issues. Poor mental health is also linked with substance abuse, homelessness and eating disorders, which may all lead to poor oral health and reduced visits to a dental practice.

In a Psychiatric News article, it was noted that poor oral health and poor mental health are interconnected. Having dental health problems can lead to further mental health issues, including dental anxiety, low self-esteem and problems eating and speaking, which can hinder your social life.

The Role of Preventative Dental Care Measures

Preventive measures are essential components of effective dental care, enabling dental teams to mitigate the risk of health issues from occurring before the symptoms even arise. Such measures include:

  • Regular dental check-ups
  • Professional teeth cleaning
  • Increased patient education
  • Conducting dental assessments when necessary

Dentists and dental hygienists play a crucial role in identifying potential oral health issues early, allowing them to provide timely interventions to address them in advance. Through a vast selection of routine examinations, reviewing patients’ medical history and personalised treatment plans, preventive dental care aims to provide good oral health for modern patients. It also enables dental teams to detect problems early and minimise the risk of negligence-related complications occurring in the future.

There are three main forms of preventative measures found within the dental industry:

  1. Primary prevention measures – Primary prevention involves placing barriers to reduce the risk of dental decay. For example, prescribing the patient with a high fluoride toothpaste which strengthens the teeth and enamel, and protects against dental caries. 
  2. Secondary prevention measures – With secondary prevention measures, your dentist aims to diagnose and treat dental diseases as quickly as possible. This is one of the reasons why regular check-ups are so important, as they allow your dentist to check your teeth routinely for potential oral health problems. An example of this could be a sealant or filling applied to your teeth to make them easier to clean, preventing decay in hard-to-reach areas.
  3. Tertiary prevention measures – Tertiary prevention involves limiting the extent of dental diseases that have already emerged, including oral health issues such as gum disease or tooth decay. In these cases, it may not be possible to eradicate the disease completely. Instead, the focus is placed on limiting damage.

By attending regular check-ups and cleaning your teeth properly, you may be able to avoid needing tertiary prevention measures in the near future.

How Does Poor Oral Health Increase My Chance of Facing Dental Negligence?

Dental negligence is a term used to refer to situations in which a dental professional fails to provide the standard of care expected in their profession, resulting in harm or injury to the patient. Whilst most people commonly think of physical injuries (such as tooth nerve damage or jaw fractures), dental negligence can also include the following things:

However, it can sometimes be hard to work out whether you’ve suffered from dental negligence.

Common signs of negligence include:

  • Unexplained or unexpected complications following dental treatment
  • Dental issues worsening despite regular treatment

Patients who believe they have been victims of dental negligence have the right to seek legal recourse to obtain compensation for their damages. 

Naturally, the better your oral health is, the less time you’ll need to spend at your dental practice being treated by your dentist. This is another area in which prevention can have its benefits, as you’re less likely to suffer from dental negligence with good oral health.

However, whilst the risk of dental negligence is reduced by using preventative measures, it can still happen to people with good oral health. 

If you feel that you’ve endured negligence at the hands of your dentist, you may be able to make a dental negligence claim – please request a callback here and we’ll see if we can help.