Written by

Peter Rigby - Director of Medical Negligence

At some point in our lives, most of us will end up paying a visit to the dentist. It’s never fun, but everyone understands that it’s an essential part of taking care of our oral health, whether you’re having a routine check-up or extensive treatment. Unfortunately, even the simplest of dental procedures can go wrong though, resulting in unnecessary pain and suffering.

Pursuing a dental negligence claim could result in compensation, which can help pay for remedial treatment, in addition to easing the trauma you have experienced. Find out more below.

What is dental malpractice?

Dental malpractice – or dental negligence – can be defined as a dentist failing to perform treatment to a reasonable standard and that this has caused an avoidable injury to you. If your dentist is found to have acted negligently or inappropriately, then this could lead to a claim for compensation.

Examples of dental negligence

There are many instances of treatment that we investigate, including:

  • Delay or incorrect diagnosis
  • Failing to obtain adequate consent including discussing risks or alternative treatments
  • Nerve injury including lingual nerve damage and facial paralysis
  • Careless or incomplete work
  • Extracting the wrong tooth
  • Dental infection
  • Restorative dentistry errors
  • Mistakes leading to loss/damage of teeth
  • Inadequate treatment plans allowing decay progression

If you have suffered unnecessarily when visiting a dentist, you could be left dealing with the consequences.

How dental negligence can affect you

When experiencing dental negligence, many people assume the impact is purely physical. However, this is not the case, as negligent dental work has been shown to have a wide range of effects on victims – including both emotional and financial distress.

If you are unsure of the impact that dental negligence can have, consider the following consequences:

Physical pain

The most obvious impact that dental negligence could have on you would be the physical pain suffered. Visiting the dentist can be painful at the best of times, but if an error is made by your dentist then you could find yourself in even greater distress.

In some cases, such as nerve injury claims, the physical pain can be agonising and can get worse when you smile, talk, or even chew food. The implications here go beyond just physical pain, with the suffering impacting your all-round wellbeing.

Emotional suffering

While some are lucky enough to have a picture-perfect smile, those with damaged teeth can have issues that affect their self-esteem and mental health. Whether your teeth are crooked, stained, or even missing, the appearance of your teeth has a direct link to body confidence, which is why so many people turn to their dentist for help.

Often, procedures like teeth whitening, veneers, or braces can solve many of these problems, but if the treatment goes wrong people could be left worse off. Having bad oral health not only causes people to lose confidence, but can also lead to depression in extreme cases.

Financial implications

The cost of having dental treatment in the UK isn’t cheap, with dentistry being one of the few NHS services which requires you to pay a contribution towards the cost of your care. In addition, most dentists provide both private and NHS treatment too, meaning the cost of your care could vary depending on your need.

For context, here’s a breakdown of costs between the NHS and private dental work:

Treatment NHS Private
Consultation/Check Up Band 1 – £22.70 £20-£120
X-Rays/Radiograph Band 1 – £22.70 £5-£40
Hygiene clean/Scale & polish Band 1 – £22.70
Band 2 – £62.10
£25 – £85
Amalgam filling/Metal filling Band 2 – £62.10 £30 – £175
Composite filling/White filling Band 2 – £62.10 £40 – £250
Root canal treatment Band 2 – £62.10 £45 – £970
Tooth extraction Band 2 – £62.10 £50 – £370
Crowns Band 3 – £269.30 £250 – £1,180
Dentures/Bridges Band 3 – £269.30 £355 – £2,520
Source: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/dentists/article/private-and-nhs-dental-charges


As you can see, dental treatment can be quite costly. If you have paid for dental work that wasn’t up to standard, you may need to have additional treatment to correct it – which could add further costs to your final bill.

How to make a complaint about your dental treatment

You can make a formal complaint before taking legal action, without the help of a solicitor. To do so, you simply need to write a letter to the practice where you received your treatment explaining why you are unhappy with your dental treatment.

If you received your treatment through the NHS, and wish to make a complaint about a dentist or a practice, you must do so within 12 months of treatment. You should get an acknowledgement letter within three working days, providing details of when to expect a formal response – this can take up to six months.

It is worth noting that a claim against a private surgeon can also be actioned. This would normally be based on a breach of contract which would entitle you to recover the costs of treatment. If this applies to you, you would need to have evidence of who treated you, when payment was made and the terms of any agreement

If you aren’t satisfied with how your complaint has been resolved, you may wish to contact the General Dental Council (GDC) to raise your concern further. The GDC is responsible for setting the standards of conduct for all dental professionals in the UK and it may be able to help.

The GDC usually considers the following types of cases:

  • Criminal offences
  • Professional misconduct
  • Health
  • Performance

If you still aren’t satisfied and wish to progress further, you may be eligible to claim compensation.

How to claim compensation for bad dental work

If you’re looking to make a claim as a result of bad dental work, you will need to gather evidence to establish that your dentist was negligent.

It is also worth noting that there is a time limit for you to make a claim, which is within three years from the date that you potentially received negligent treatment. Once this time has passed, you will no longer be able to claim compensation.

To ensure you can make a claim, you must be able to prove the following:

  • Breach – has the dentist breached their duty by falling below the required standard of care?
  • Causation – can you verify that this breach of care has directly resulted in causing harm to yourself?
  • Damages – do you have any way of showing that you have suffered as a result of your dentist being negligent? If possible, you should take as many photos that you can of your injury and collect images of your appearance both before and after treatment. With the overall cosmetic appearance from dental treatment being an important component of a claim, it is very useful if your lawyer can have sight of these as they help to provide a better understanding of how the condition has affected you. It may be necessary to obtain professional imaging and we can arrange this for you.

Looking for a dental negligence solicitor?

If you are considering making a dental negligence claim as a result of poor treatment, Patient Claim Line can provide expert legal support. We use specialist dental reports to understand what went wrong and how to fix it, making sure that you receive the maximum level of compensation you are entitled to.

If you’d like to understand more about how to claim for dental negligence, discover how Patient Claim Line can help in our how it works section.

Concerned about your medical treatment?

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