Dental phobia

The scene

A patient attended his dentist for a routine appointment, with the GDP advising the need for fillings at UR6 and LL6. The patient suffered from dental phobia, so the GDP referred him to a DDU member at a sedation clinic, where the procedure would be performed under intravenous sedation.

The patient saw the DDU member some three months later to have the fillings, and wasn't examined before being sedated. The procedure was uneventful, but on leaving the sedation clinic the patient noticed that his UR7 had been filled instead of the UR6. The filling in the LL6 felt too high, causing the patient problems with closing his mouth.

The procedure was uneventful, but on leaving the sedation clinic the patient noticed that his UR7 had been filled instead of the UR6.

The patient returned to his GDP twice in the next few weeks. At the first visit the GDP confirmed that the wrong tooth had been filled and that both fillings were too high, and adjusted the filings so the patient could close his mouth properly. At the second visit the UR6 was filled and another adjustment made to the filling at LL6.

The claim

The patient instructed solicitors to make a claim against the DDU member, making a number of allegations. It was claimed that the consent process was inadequate, the UR6 was not filled and the patient was inconvenienced by having to have it treated, and the LL6 was not filled to an acceptable standard, leaving the tooth compromised and in need of root canal treatment.

It was also claimed that the UR7 had been compromised, as the tooth did not need a filling. While the DDU member accepted that they filled the wrong tooth, it was their view that the UR7 had required restoration in any event.

The DDU sought independent expert advice, which identified vulnerabilities in the DDU member's management. In view of this, the matter was settled with the member's consent. The patient's damages amounted to around £1,000, with legal costs negotiated down to just over £5,000.

Summary

This case highlights the importance of communication, consent, and establishing procedures such as checklists and supportive teamworking, to ensure that the treatment provided is that which has been planned.

This guidance was correct at publication 13/07/2018. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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