Posted on 01 Aug. 2018
Slater and Gordon lawyers have witnessed a troubling rise in the number of unnecessary dental procedures resulting in injury.
Senior Slater and Gordon Medical Negligence Lawyer Kate Williams said she had seen a sharp rise in dental claims across NSW in the past two years, raising concerns about some dentists rushing treatment, conducting unnecessary procedures or choosing to do procedures themselves instead of referring patients to specialists.
She said she believed a lot of the issues stemmed from a drive within dental practices to keep patients and not refer them to specialist in order to retain profit.
Ms Williams said she had seen complaints including 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.
“We are regularly seeing people who 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,” Ms Williams said.
This is an increasing problem, which can leave patients with significant health consequences following complications of some dental work.
Ms Williams highlighted one particular case involving a Sydney woman whose regular dentist had recommended – on several occasions – that she have a wisdom tooth removed as he believed it would pose future problems.
The woman – who will remain anonymous – 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 the lower teeth.
As a result, the woman now suffers weakness and paralysis of muscles around the corner of her mouth, numbness as well as ongoing social issues, including dribbling, drooling and experiences burning when eating and drinking hot food and drinks.
“The dentist struggled for over an hour to remove the tooth, requiring multiple top-ups of local anaesthetic,” Ms Williams said.
“The resultant injuries she 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.”
Ms Williams said while not all dentists were responsible for these types of errors, she encouraged everyone who was concerned about a procedure to obtain a second opinion.