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        CASE STUDY: Mrs O's Dental Negligence

        Mr O attended his dentist of many years for a routine check up in December 2010.

        He was informed that his LL5 tooth had a significant carie and would require a filling. Thinking nothing of it, he agreed to the procedure which was performed the same day.

        Mr O returned to the surgery 6 months later complaining that the filling had been lost. The dentist agreed to implant another but this was also lost within a year. Mr O was advised that he would require edodontic treatment in the form of a root canal, which was eventually performed in May 2012. Unfortunately, during this procedure, one of the surgical files fractured and a piece of the instrument became lodged in the canal. Despite much effort, the dentist was unable to retrieve the fractured piece.

        Mr O’s treatment following the fracture was entirely reasonable and well thought out. He was informed quickly of what had happened and given a number of options of how he wanted to proceed. He was given a regimen of antibiotics to avoid the risk of infection.  A successful attempt was made to bypass the fracture and complete the root canal within a couple of weeks. Subsequently the file was removed and a temporary crown was put in place.

        At first glance, the negligence in this case appeared to take place during the initial root canal operation when the file fractured and lodged in the patient’s canal. However, after careful review, this was not in fact the case. The fracturing of instruments, whilst unfortunate, is inevitably a risk during precise dental surgery and it could not be shown that the fracture was the fault of the dentist. Nor could it be showed that any of Mr O’s subsequent treatment fell below the standard of care to be expected from a competent dentist.

        On reviewing the medical records, it was noticed that there was a radiograph taken in 2009 of Mr O’s teeth showing a small carie in the same tooth. However, there was no plan of action proposed by the dentist as to the treatment. It was simply left or forgotten and it was not until a year and a half later when, during another check up, the carie was acted upon. At this point however, it had grown beyond the point where fillings would suffice and a root canal was required.

        This failure to offer any advice or plan of action to the patient was a clear breach of duty. The practitioner neither analysed the radiograph, undertook exploratory procedures nor even informed Mr O of the carie.  Due to the nature of legal causation, the initial negligence caused a chain of events that led to the fracture of the file during the root canal and the subsequent pain and suffering. Had this initial negligence not occurred, neither would the future treatments, procedures or pain and suffering. As such, the initial negligence could be held responsible for all the resulting losses over the proceeding years. Happily, the Specter Partnership Solicitors was able to serve proceedings against the dentist and recover a substantial 5 figure settlement in favour of the client.