Call us free on 0800 0853 823


The Emotional Toll of Dental Negligence

When most people think about dental negligence claims, the initial association that comes to mind is personal injury. However, mental health negligence claims are also possible, as undergoing clinical negligence can be extremely harmful to your emotional state. Many people have a fear of the dentist as it is, and undergoing medical negligence can make the phobia much worse.

At the Dental Law Partnership, we’re a specialist team of highly experienced dental negligence solicitors, working with all our clients on a no-win, no-fee basis. Dental negligence can have a major impact on your mental health, so we’ve created this blog to draw awareness to the issue, hoping to give you all the information you need to seek the appropriate legal advice. 

If you’d like to speak to a member of our expert team about the possibility of opening a mental health claim, please enquire today.

The link between dental negligence and mental illness

There is a profound link between your physical health and your mental health. This means that in most personal injury claims, there is also usually a mental health component. You may also find the claims process rather stressful (particularly if your dentist refuses to admit responsibility for their negligence), which can also have a major impact on your mental and physical health.

It’s not uncommon for sufferers of dental negligence to experience depression, stress and anxiety, as well as a range of other mental health issues. This could be due to several factors, including future worries or intense pain after your negligent treatment occurred. Claimants may also suffer from reduced self-esteem and confidence, particularly if the negligence they’ve undergone has caused an obvious injury. 

If you have a fear of the dentist, suffering from dental negligence can make it much worse. This is a particular issue if you need to have remedial treatment carried out to fix the damage caused by your dentist. It’s natural to feel reluctant in cases like this – we recommend speaking to an approved mental health professional if you find yourself struggling after dental negligence. 

How do I make a mental health claim against my dentist?

If you believe that you’ve experienced dental negligence and the process has affected your mental health, you may be able to make a mental health compensation claim.

In most cases, the mental health issues you’ve suffered will be included as part of your personal injury claim. You can claim for more than one thing during your case, so it’s important to make accurate notes before seeking legal advice.

If you’d like to open a mental health negligence claim, it’s worth speaking to an approved mental health professional or your GP. In any medical negligence claim, you’ll usually need to prove that your compensation claim is valid, so having a medical record of your mental illness may help you with your case. Not only will this allow you to navigate a dental negligence claim, but it will also enable you to seek out help and treatment after your ordeal. 

Depending on the type of mental illness you are facing, you may be offered medication, counselling or a combination of the two. 

To prove dental negligence occurred, you’ll also need to show that:

  • Your dentist failed in their duty of care 
  • Your dentist’s failure to adhere to the practice rules caused harm to you (whether emotional or physical)
  • Damage and other losses have occurred as a result of your dentist’s negligence

For more information about the claims process, please request a callback today.

How long after my negligent treatment can I make a claim?

Unlike most physical injuries, mental health issues tend to take a while to emerge, so it could be several months before it becomes apparent that there’s a problem. The diagnosis and treatment processes can also be rather lengthy, particularly with the long waiting times faced by NHS patients at the moment.

However, the good news is that under the Limitation Act 1980, you have a total of three years to open a dental negligence claim against your dentist. This means that you don’t need to start your case immediately, giving you time to weigh up your decision. The three-year period usually starts from the date the negligence occurred, but in some situations, it can be moved to the date that you became aware of the negligent treatment.

There are some exceptions to the three-year rule:

  • The three-year time limit starts to run from the period a person turns 18, so if minors experience dental negligence, a claim can be made anytime up until the age of 21
  • If your case involves a vulnerable adult or someone with no mental capacity, there is no time limit, unless the vulnerable person recovers from their illness. In these situations, the three-year time limit will start from the date of recovery
  • If the negligence involves a deceased person (whether or not the negligence led to their death) and they die within three years, the limitation period restarts from the date of death. If negligence is only discovered after their death, the family has three years from the date of discovery to make a claim.

In all other cases, courts are unlikely to accept a dental negligence claim that is out of the three years, so we recommend getting legal advice from a firm of dental negligence solicitors as soon as you can.

You can find out more about how to sue your dentist here.

The connection between poor oral health and mental illness

There is a close connection between poor oral health and your chance of developing a mental illness.  For example, in 2021, an article from Dental Nursing elaborated on the matter, finding that people with mental health issues were more likely to suffer from poor oral health. 

Several key points can be taken away from the Dental Nursing article:

  • People with mental health issues are less likely to brush their teeth daily, with a study finding that around 75% of people with schizophrenia brush their teeth every day, compared to 96% of the general population
  • There is a link between poor mental health and other factors (such as substance abuse disorders and homelessness), which are also connected to oral health issues.
  • Patients with poor mental health are 50% more likely to suffer from periodontal disease (gum disease)
  • Patients with eating disorders are five times as likely to have dental erosion, when compared to people without eating disorders
  • Smoking rates are three times higher in people with mental health issues, which can lead to further oral health problems

A link between mental health disorders and gum disease has also been established. 

A study carried out by the Journal of Clinical Periodontology made a connection between depressive episodes and your body’s ability to fight off inflammation, which is an early sign of gum disease. People with mental health issues are also more likely to neglect their dental care, which can make the issue even worse.

If you are struggling with your mental health, it’s important that you know that there is help out there. We recommend speaking to your GP or a trained mental health professional, as they may be able to help you move forward with your life. If you’re struggling or there are long appointment wait times for your local practice, also lists a number of services you can access.

Open your mental health compensation claim today

Facing dental negligence is never easy – as well as the risk of physical injury, negligent treatment can also lead to mental health issues, as well as exacerbating existing problems. We understand that negligent dental treatment can make life much harder, which is why we try to help as many people as possible with their dental negligence claims.

It can be difficult to open up to someone about your mental health, but rest assured that we’re here to assist you however we can. At the Dental Law Partnership, we’re a specialist team of highly experienced dental negligence solicitors, having handled hundreds of mental health negligence claims during our time in the industry.

If you’d like to speak to a member of our team about making a claim, or if you’d simply like more advice, please reach out here.