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Dental negligence claims for fillings

What is a filling?

Dental fillings are used as a restorative measure in teeth that have been affected by decay or damage. It is a common procedure and most fillings are carried out without any issues, but sometimes dentists may perform the treatment poorly, which can lead to a number of problems as a result.

Generally, fillings are either done with silver amalgam (a combination of metals) or white fillings. Usually, white fillings are not available on the NHS for adults, so if you want a white filling, you usually have to pay for this by having private dental treatment.

The process for a silver amalgam filling usually involves a local anaesthetic to ensure the patient doesn’t feel any pain during the procedure. The affected tooth is then cleaned of decay and bacteria, often using a drill and the filling material is placed into the cavity.

White fillings differ from this and potentially can have more associated risks if the procedure is not carried out to a good standard by your dentist.

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What is the process of having a white filling?

If, after discussion with your dentist, you decide to go ahead with having white fillings placed, your dentist will start by numbing the area using a local anaesthetic. Once the tooth in question is completely numb, the next step is to isolate the tooth from the rest of the mouth. This isolation is essential for both your comfort and also to ensure the tooth is kept dry so that the white filling will bond to your tooth properly.

Your dentist will then remove decay from the cavity in the tooth using a high-speed rotating dental drill, before treating the cavity base and walls chemically to ensure the white filling bonds well to the tooth. They will choose the right shade of filling to match your teeth and then it will be carefully placed in layers to fill the cavity. Each layer must be hardened using a special light which cures the white filling material. This light curing process will take up to 30 seconds for each layer.

It is essential that your dentist protects your eyes during the light curing process, and you should be provided with protective glasses with special filters in the lens. Your dentist will also protect their eyes and those of their assistants by covering your mouth with a translucent, handheld screen.

Once the filling has been set hard, your dentist will check that you can bite comfortably before polishing the surface.

The benefits of white fillings

White fillings are used to seal tooth cavities and prevent tooth decay (as long as you exercise good dental hygiene and have regular dental check-ups). They should ultimately reduce any sensitivity associated with the cavity as well.

However, the appearance of white fillings is clearly a major plus when compared to silver-coloured or metal amalgam fillings since white fillings are almost undetectable in your mouth, and mercury-free.

Additionally, because white fillings can be glued to the teeth, they can be used in smaller cavities than would be needed if silver-coloured fillings were placed.

Common risks of white fillings

The chemical treatment of the cavity walls required for white fillings involves the controlled use of acid gel. Also, white fillings contract slightly when they are light cured by the dentist. The combination of these two features can result in short-term sensitivity to hot and cold after your white filling is placed. Normally this sensitivity only lasts for 48 hours, although if it persists you should seek advice from your dentist.

Occasionally, teeth will die after a filling has been placed, but this is a general risk of all kinds of filling – there is no evidence to suggest that it happens more frequently after white fillings than any other kind. However, it is accepted that white fillings are not ideal for very large or deep cavities because of the difficulty in keeping the tooth dry during the filling process, and the difficulty of curing deep fillings.

How long will a white filling last?

How long a white filling will last does depend on the size, with the rule of thumb being the smaller the filling, the longer it will last. As a rough guide, you could expect a moderate sized white filling in a back tooth to last six to eight years. However, although this type of filling is recommended for aesthetic reasons, the materials they’re made from are less durable than that of a silver or gold filling and therefore may not be the best option for teeth that endure a large amount of chewing force.

What to ask your dentist before agreeing to have a white filling

Make sure that you know the cost of the white fillings before work is started. White fillings count as cosmetic dentistry, which is not covered by the NHS.

You should ask your dentist about alternative treatments to white fillings if your teeth need very deep or large fillings – for instance, inlays, onlays or crowns.

Are white fillings suitable for me?

Your suitability for white fillings can only be decided once your dentist has completed a thorough assessment of your general oral health and the teeth in question. However, you are probably not suitable for white fillings if you have very deep cavities. Otherwise, they can be a good choice for most people.

Is it normal to have tooth sensitivity months after filling?

In the first few days following a dental filling procedure, it’s not uncommon for there to be some tooth sensitivity. However, if this sensitivity continues for weeks or months or gets noticeably worse, it could be a sign of an underlying dental problem that requires treatment.

Experiencing tooth sensitivity months after having a filling doesn’t necessarily mean that your dentist made a mistake with your treatment, but it can sometimes happen as a result of dental negligence. If you believe that your dentist is at fault due to errors that they made, or the poor standard of care given, you might be eligible to make a dental negligence compensation claim. Get in touch with us for more information.

What causes a failed filling?

There can be several different reasons why a filling can fail. A failed filling procedure could happen because the treatment wasn’t carried out well in the first place, or perhaps the filling was used when another form of treatment, such as a crown, would have been a better option. Another reason for failed fillings could be due to the original decay not being treated properly by your dentist before they place the filling. Your dentist should remove any decay and clean the area prior to placing a filling. If the decay isn’t treated correctly this could result in future complications.

Modern fillings are designed to last as long as possible, but some might need replacing around every seven to 10 years.

If you think your filling failed due to your dentist not carrying out the procedure properly or that it wasn’t the correct course of action for you, and you have been injured as a result, you may be able to claim compensation for dental negligence. Find out more by calling us on 0808 301 8732.

Is there a risk of dental filling complications?

Whilst most dental fillings are carried out with no issues, there are sometimes complications associated with this type of treatment. The potential risks and complications for dental fillings include:

  • An injury to the mouth caused during the treatment
  • A reaction to the anaesthetic, such as an allergy
  • A nerve injury caused by the procedure
  • A blood vessel injury occurring during the treatment
  • Decay spreading around the filling

If you’ve experienced complications after having a filling, and you think that your dentist was to blame for it, you may be able to make a claim for dental negligence compensation, depending on the circumstances. Get in touch with us to find out more.

How long does a filling take in the UK?

Most standard fillings done by dentists in the UK will take between 20 minutes and one hour to carry out.

However, depending on the complexity of your treatment, a filling could sometimes take longer to do. If you have more than one filling treatment required (on the same side of your mouth) then your dentist will often try to carry them out at the same time, which can mean your appointment lasts longer than one for a standard single filling. If you need fillings on different sides of your mouth, it will generally require at least two individual appointments for them to be treated separately, as it is standard practice to only numbone side of the mouth with local anaesthetic at a time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I claim for if something goes wrong with my white filling?

Although white fillings are considered a routine part of dental treatment, on some occasions the procedure may not go to plan. Errors can occur as a result of dental negligence with the following complications, which might result in the opportunity for a dental negligence claim:

Failure to clean out the cavity in the tooth to a satisfactory standard leaving decay still present in the tooth, and the potential for pain and infection
Poor execution of the white filling leading to gaps where decay can take hold, pain, fracture of the tooth or early filling replacement

How do I know if there is a problem with my filling?

There are a number of ways in which you may be able to tell that a filling has not worked properly or that the work was not carried out to a good standard. These signs may not always mean you have been a victim of dental negligence, but it’s important that you take action if you experience any of them, and visit a dentist as soon as possible.

  • Ongoing aches or pains that last longer than a few days after the filling procedure was carried out
  • The filling falls out or has a gap (does not fill the whole cavity)
  • The gums or teeth around the filled tooth are irritated longer than a couple of days after the procedure
  • Your bite no longer lines up correctly
    The tooth cracks or degrades further

How long does it take to bring a dental negligence claim for fillings?

As every dental negligence case is different, it’s not possible to put a precise timeframe on how long a case like this will take, from start to finish. A specific legal process must be followed at every stage of the claim, but many cases are settled before they ever reach court, so the length of a case can be as little as a few weeks or can stretch to many months, if your dentist refutes the claim. The complexity of the case may also play a part in how long it takes to bring a successful claim, as gathering the necessary evidence and involving independent experts can take some time. See the full process here.

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