In 2017, the DDU says five aspects of dental treatment resulted in 80% of the claims it received.
The top five reasons include:
- Extractions (24%)
- Root canal treatments (20%)
- Caries and fillings (17%)
- Periodontal disease (10%)
- Implant treatment (9%).
‘A lot has changed in the dental landscape in recent years,’ John Makin, head of the DDU, said.
‘Despite this, many of the allegations of clinical negligence made against DDU members relate to routine aspects of treatment.
‘There are steps dental professionals can take to minimise risks if they understand where issues can arise.’
Reducing the risk
The DDU has put together a list of ways dental professionals can reduce their risk of claims occurring.
- Take time to explain to patients the material risks of treatment and the alternatives, including no treatment
- Provide a written treatment plan and fee estimate, be sure to warn patients of the cost implications if circumstances change
- Recognise the limits of your own clinical skills. Be prepared to refer the patient if complications are likely
- Follow available relevant guidance to make sure your treatment would be supported by a responsible body
- Ensure patients understand the importance of looking after their own oral health
- Be open and honest with the patient if an unforeseen complication or error occurs during treatment
- Get early advice from the DDU or your own dental defence organisation if you need support with an incident.
There have been calls for the Government to step in to protect dentists from the rising cost of clinical negligence.
Dental Protection is calling on the Government to introduce a package of legal reforms including:
- A fixed recoverable cost scheme – to stop lawyers charging disproportionate legal fees
- An increase in the small claims track threshold for clinical negligence claims up to £5,000
- A minimum threshold for cash compensation relating to claims for minor injuries.
‘It’s not unusual for the costs awarded to claimant lawyers to be significantly higher than the damages paid to the patient,’ Raj Rattan, dental director at Dental Protection, said.
‘Sometimes it can be two or three times higher.
‘This situation is inequitable and unreasonable and we are working with the Government to address this problem.
‘We also need action to ensure straightforward claims are dealt with in a more proportionate way.
‘And also to stop claims from being taken forward in the first place when only minor inconveniences have arisen.’