The Irish Dental Association alleges that there are roughly 2,000 practicing dentists in Ireland today, with further dentistry professionals coming in the form of hygienists, assistants, technicians and specialists.  

Dentistry accounts for an important branch of medicine and a huge industry in this country. While most believe their gums and teeth are healthy, research shows that over 80% of Irish people have some type of gum disease. 

Dental injuries can be long-lasting and very painful. Dental negligence is concerned with damage that can be considered avoidable.

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What is Dental Negligence?

Dental negligence occurs when inadequate dental care leads to an injury that was otherwise avoidable. Dentistry is recognised as a medical profession and, as such, dentists carry a duty of care to their patients. 

If they do not perform at a reasonable skill level, or if they make an error that damages a patient’s condition, they can be held liable. Because dental negligence is legally considered to be a form of medical negligence, you must go through a solicitor to file a claim for compensation.

If you feel you have been a victim of dental negligence, it is worth reaching out to an experienced solicitor for help in assessing your case. 

At Hughes & Associates, we operate out of Dublin 2 and offer vast experience in dental negligence claims. Get in touch by phoning us on +353 1 891 0020 or emailing info@hughessolicitors.ie.

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Types of Dental Negligence

Dental Misdiagnosis

Failure to diagnose a dental condition

Cosmetic Dental errors

Mismanaged tooth extraction

Inadequate root canal treatment (RCT)

Errors made in restorative dentistry

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Dental misdiagnosis claims

A delayed or improper diagnosis can cause serious damage, particularly if a severe condition like oral cancer isn’t recognised in time. A dentist should investigate any symptoms a patient is experiencing in order to successfully diagnose an issue like a nerve injury that will only grow more painful and damaging over time.

Failure to diagnose a dental condition claims

A failure to diagnose can also mean major damage over an extended period of time. Conditions like oral cancer or gum disease can become more dangerous the longer they go untreated. Another issue that dentists sometimes fail to identify is a dental abscess, or a pocket of puss, that can grow into a serious bacterial infection over time. An abscess can, in some instances, become life threatening, so a failure to diagnose is very dangerous.

Cosmetic dentistry error claims

Cosmetic dentistry covers procedures like veneers, crowns, bridges, orthodontics and teeth whitening. There is a broad scope for error. Something like a poorly fitted crown can cause lots of pain. Poorly fitted veneers can also cause huge discomfort, as well as mental distress if they don’t look how a patient had expected.

Mismanaged tooth extraction claims

A poorly performed extraction can lead to immense pain. The procedure can already cause a lot of discomfort in the hours and days that follow it, but if a dental practitioner performs the operation poorly, that damage can be exacerbated. As there is an inherent pain threshold that comes with a tooth extraction, proving a dentist’s malpractice led to unnecessary discomfort can be tricky.

Inadequate root canal treatment (RCT) claims

RCTs are famed for being painful, although a successful treatment should not cause immense discomfort. Sometimes, a dentist may miss the infected area of the tooth and not address the issue properly. If the tooth is sealed with bacteria left behind, it will continue to develop and cause problems. RCTs remove blood vessels and cut off the blood supply, meaning a patient’s immune system cannot defend itself against any bacteria that is missed. If the pain of an RCT does not subside after several days, the procedure may have been poorly carried out.

Errors made in restorative dentistry claims

Restorative dentistry concerns damaged teeth. Plenty of restorative procedures become necessary because of tooth decay, which, as mentioned, can sometimes go undiagnosed. In those instances, a dental negligence case may be two-pronged. Restorative dental procedures include fillings, crowns and bridges. Issues can arise if decay is missed, teeth are not properly filled before a procedure or occasionally the wrong tooth receives a filling.

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How to Prove Dental Negligence

To prove any case of medical negligence, there are several steps you must take in order to properly establish malpractice. If you are looking to attach blame and demonstrate dental negligence, you should:

  1. Establish a duty of care: it is helpful to quantify exactly what is meant by a duty of care when talking about a dentist’s responsibility to their patient. If we can be precise in our expectations of reasonable, professional healthcare, it will be much easier to determine an instance of malpractice.
  2. Establish a breach of care: demonstrating a breach of duty requires proof that a practitioner did not act with an appropriate level of skill and competence. A negligence case can hinge on evidence of a dentist failing to meet the required professional standard. 
  3. Causation: once it has been shown that a dentist did not perform to an appropriate level, it must be shown that this breach of care led directly to the deterioration of a patient’s condition. If, for example, a dentist failed to diagnose tooth decay, but it did not exacerbate the patient’s health, they may not be held liable for dental negligence.
  4. Compensation: in the event that your dental negligence claim is successful, compensation will be awarded based on any medical expenses incurred due to your injury, as well as any loss of earnings that arises from an enforced period of absence from your work.
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What Injuries Can Arise as a Result of Dental Negligence?

Certain injuries arise quite regularly as a result of dental negligence, including:

  • Fractured teeth or cracked tooth syndrome (CTS). A cracked tooth can remain harmless, or, on occasion, it can develop and eventually split your tooth. They are most common among young children and elderly people.
  • Facial swelling that can be agitated by a dental infection.
  • A jaw fracture or dislocation, usually as a result of a poorly executed tooth extraction. If too much force is used to remove the tooth, it can cause major damage to a patient’s jaw.
  • Bleeding gums and tooth sockets that subsist for an unnecessary period of time.
  • Root fracture that starts below the gum line and could become infected.
  • Intense toothache, potentially coming about as a result of undiagnosed decay.

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Filing a Dental Negligence Claim

If you think you have the basis for a dental negligence case, it is worth getting in touch with a specialist solicitor that holds experience in the area of medical negligence. Filing a claim in Ireland requires the assistance of a legal professional.

At Hughes & Associates, we are always on hand to assess your grounds for a pharmacy negligence claim. Contact us over the phone on +353 1 891 0020 or by emailing info@hughessolicitors.ie.

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