Consumers are rushing into dental procedures in an industry lacking in regulations

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Simon Wilson says that further growth in dental negligence claims is inevitable

The dental profession has seen a significant increase over the last decade in the number of consumers seeking cosmetic work. And whilst this boom in custom has been great for the industry’s coffers, it has also led to numerous cases of dental practitioner negligence.

Seemingly lax regulations and accreditation make it easy for practitioners to offer procedures they have little experience in, and this can potentially result in serious physical and psychological damage to patients. Moreover, practitioner insurance is not a prerogative – so recouping costs can be a lengthy and drawn out process for the affected consumer.

Clear warnings have been given by the British Dental Association about checking the legitimacy of practitioners, and the body has insisted that work carried out by anyone other than dental professionals probably won’t be done with the correct training or knowledge.

However, despite these warnings, the lower costs, shorter recovery times and low level of invasiveness are an alluring feature of cosmetic dental procedures, and are associated with consumers being much more impulsive when it comes to seeking treatment.

This impulsiveness means that consumers are less likely to research the procedure, practitioner and practice reputations thoroughly and, as a result, may be rushing into procedures without being fully informed of the consequences.

A study has shown that, despite 75% of consumers being troubled by a lack of information concerning cosmetic surgery, nearly half said that they would go through with a procedure. Furthermore, research has suggested that over one third of adults in the UK have considered having tooth whitening procedures, meaning the potential impact of illegitimate or cosmetic dental work could be widespread and may continue to grow.

One legal firm alone saw £540,000 worth of compensation paid out to their clients within the last 12 months for substandard dental work.

The consequences of botched procedures can be as simple as damage to a tooth’s surface caused by ill-fitting braces, to severe burns caused by tooth whitening chemicals. Remedying the damages caused by such problems can be extremely costly – particularly if multiple teeth or a large area of the mouth is affected.

Claimants are advised to seek an independent medical evaluation if negligence is suspected. Similarly, information about the particular procedure given as well as the performing practice and practitioners should be gathered to form a strong level of evidence from which to base any legal proceedings.

Simon Wilson is a senior solicitor at Hudgell Solicitors

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