Extractions Account for Almost a Quarter of Negligence Claims

Dentistry Today

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In 2017, five aspects of dental care resulted in 80% of the clinical negligence claims that dental practitioners reported they were facing to the Dental Defence Union (DDU). Extractions accounted for 24% of all claims, followed by root canals (20%), caries and fillings (17%), periodontal disease (10%), and implant treatment (9%). 

Yet the DDU reports that while dental professionals can expect to face three clinical negligence claims in a 30-year career, only a minority of cases succeed. During 2018, the DDU says, its advice and guidance resulted in 69% of dental claims being successfully defended without the payment of compensation. 

“A lot has changed in the dental landscape in recent years such as the popularity of cosmetic treatments and technical advances in orthodontics and endodontics. Despite this, many of the allegations of clinical negligence made against DDU members relate to routine aspects of treatment such as extractions and fillings,” said John Makin, head of the DDU. 

“Nevertheless, there are steps dental professionals can take to minimize risks if they understand where issues can arise,” said Makin, including:

  • When obtaining consent, take time to explain to patients, as part of the consent process, the material risks of treatment and the alternatives, including no treatment. Make a careful note of the discussion in the clinical records. 
  • Provide a written treatment plan and fee estimate and be sure to warn patients of the cost implications if circumstances change. 
  • Provide a written treatment plan and fee estimate and be sure to warn patients of the cost implications if circumstances change.
  • Recognize the limits of your own clinical skills. Be prepared to refer the patient to an appropriate colleague if complications are likely or if the patient has a complex history.
  • Follow available relevant guidance to make sure your treatment would be supported by a responsible body of clinical opinion.
  • Ensure patients understand the importance of looking after their own oral health. Record advice provided to patients about diet, oral hygiene, attendance patterns, and factors such as smoking, drinking, medications, and comorbidities. 
  • Be open and honest with the patient if an unforeseen complication or error occurs during treatment. You should immediately tell the patient or the patient’s representative, apologize, and offer an appropriate remedy or support to put matters right, if possible. Explain fully to the patient the short-term and long-term effects of what has happened. 
  • Get early advice from the DDU or your own dental defense organization if you need support with an incident that might lead to a claim.

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