root canal treatment
The DDU has expressed its concern over the rise in root canal treatment claims

Root canal treatment claims are up 42% in the last five years, according to the Dental Defence Union (DDU).

Over 1,400 claims included root canal treatment, around a quarter of the total claims made to the DDU, causing it to warn dentists to recognise their technical limits and be prepared to refer patients if necessary when performing root canal treatment.

The most common allegations in the claims analysed by the DDU were that the treatment was unsatisfactory, inadequate, or failed completely leading to the patient having to have their tooth extracted.

‘Root canal treatment is often regarded with dread by patients, and although the success rate is 90% if carried out to a good standard, it is a significant cause of claims and complaints reported to the DDU,’ Eric Easson, DDU dento-legal adviser and author of the DDU’s endodontic claims analysis, said.

‘Given that over 5.6 million NHS dental patients had root canal treatment in England in 2014/15 and many more would have been treated privately, it is not surprising that in a small number of cases, there is a poor outcome.

‘At the same time, root canal procedures demand a higher level of technical skills than many other dental restorations and there are a range of risk factors to consider.

‘In short, endodontic procedures are risky and a miscalculation can prove costly in terms of a poor outcome for the patient and the potential for a claim or complaint.

‘It’s vital that dentists know their limitations and are prepared to refer patients to a specialist if this is in their best interests.’