Whether it’s through a perceived bad reputation or real-life negative experiences, very few people enjoy visiting the dentist.
Slater and Gordon have seen a troubling rise in the number of unnecessary dental procedure which have resulted in serious long-term injuries - almost a 100 per cent increase over a 24-month period.
In particular, clients are raising more concerns about dentists who are rushing treatment, conducting unnecessary procedures or choosing to do procedures themselves, instead of referring patients to specialists.
Most of the complaints Slater and Gordon has received have focused on dentists:
Removing wisdom teeth unnecessarily and causing nerve damage.
Removing wisdom teeth when patients need to be referred to an oral surgeon due to complexity.
Conducting cosmetic dental work without doing appropriate preparation, causing gum disease.
Not recognising jaw dislocations during extractions with patients suffering joint dysfunction.
Recognising jaw dislocations following extractions but not providing specialist treatment or referral.
These people have suffered from avoidable errors made by dentists, many of whom are overworked and have pressure to perform a certain number of procedures by their employers.
These mistakes can leave patients with significant health consequences following complications of some dental work.
In one particular case involving a Sydney woman, her regular dentist had recommended – on several occasions – that she needed to have a wisdom tooth removed as he believed it would pose future problems.
The woman consistently declined to have the procedure as she was not experiencing any pain. However during a routine check-up, the dentist convinced her that the tooth needed to be removed and the procedure was done then and there.
During the protracted removal, the dentist permanently damaged her Inferior Alveolar Nerve, which supplies sensation to her lower teeth.
The dentist struggled for over an hour to remove the tooth, requiring multiple top-ups of local anaesthetic.
As a result, the woman now suffers weakness and paralysis of her muscles around the corner of her mouth as well as ongoing social issues, including dribbling, drooling and experiences burning when eating and drinking hot food and drinks.
Now, the injuries she has suffered were a known complication of dental extractions. Unless there was an urgent need to do it, the patient should have been warned of the risks in advance so that she could make an informed decision.
The dentist should also have allowed for an appropriate time to do the procedure in order to avoid causing unnecessary damage.
This has changed her life and has affected her and her young family moving forward just because the dentist was anxious to do an unnecessary procedure.
It should be made clear that not all dentists are responsible for these types of errors. However, it cannot be emphasised enough that those who are concerned about a recommended dental procedure should obtain a second opinion.