What Happens If You Have The Wrong Tooth Removed?
The Law Of… winning dental negligence claims
An Oxfordshire woman, already nervous about going under the drill, had her faith in dentistry tested to its limits when what should have been a routine extraction didn't turn out as expected.
Sarah Chambers, a Medical Negligence Solicitor at Simpson Millar, took on the case and explains how this claim for dental negligence unfolded.
Pulling The Wrong Tooth
Mrs Joanna Hoskin, of Benson in Oxfordshire, first approached Simpson Millar in 2016. She had a complaint against her dentist, which proved to be more than just the customary dental negligence case. Her circumstances, once explained, revealed not only a catalogue of errors leading to the failure in care, but also grounds to bring a claim not against one hospital, as is typical, but two.
Following an assessment by an orthodontist at the Royal Cornwall Hospital on the outskirts of Truro, Mrs Hoskin was referred to the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where she was to undergo the extraction of two of her teeth. Due to her extreme anxiety regarding dental treatment, the procedure took place under general anaesthetic, but the outcome was hardly what she expected when it was discovered that what should have been a fairly innocuous operation had gone terribly wrong.
One of the teeth removed by the Consultant Maxillofacial Surgeon at the Oxford University Hospital proved to be the wrong one.
The Impact Of A Wrongful Tooth Extraction
Tooth extractions can be daunting enough at the best of times, but in instances where somebody has a genuine fear of visiting the dentist, such a relatively routine procedure can be truly terrifying, hence the need for the claimant in this case to undergo a general anaesthetic. Discovering the wrong tooth has been removed, necessitating a subsequent extraction to correct the botched surgery, will place further psychological and emotional strain on anybody already adversely affected by the prospect of such treatment.
An extraction can also leave the patient extremely self-conscious of the resulting gap, as it is generally considered good practice to give the gum at least 3 months to heal (which can stretch to 6, depending upon recovery rate) before a bridge can be fitted. This can give rise to confidence issues – not to mention problems with eating and drinking – damaging the patient's quality of life.
On top of the impact upon a patient's quality of life, there is also the financial aspect to consider. Dental treatment (whether NHS or private) can be expensive and the cost of the corrective surgery needed to remedy a tooth removed in error would leave a considerable dent in the average bank account.
What Can I Do If My Dentist Removes The Wrong Tooth?
If you have been the victim of a wrongful extraction, you should seek independent legal advice from a law firm, such as Simpson Millar, which has a clinical error department equipped to handle, often complex, dental negligence claims.
Where the wrong tooth has been removed, factors such as psychological impact, loss of earnings (dependent upon profession) and the effect on your quality of life, along with the cost of remedial treatment, will be taken into consideration when determining the value of any award.
Preventable Dental Negligence
Sarah Chambers, representing Mrs Joanna Hoskin, established that fault not only lay with the Oxford University Hospital where the procedure took place, but also with the Royal Cornwall Hospital from where the original referral was made.
In its referral notes, the Royal Cornwall had failed to correctly identify the two teeth that required extraction, neglecting to use 2 different forms of tooth notation – which associate information to a specific tooth – recommended as good practice under British Orthodontic guidelines. Even with the Royal Cornwall Hospital's error, it was still possible for the Oxford University Hospital to prevent the wrong extraction taking place. This could have been achieved via a careful review of the x-rays, which would easily have identified the teeth that were in need of removal. Such precautions were not taken, resulting in the unnecessary removal of one of Mrs Hoskin's teeth and the consequent need for further, anxiety-inducing dental work.
'A Good Result'
Asserting that, due to the negligence of the two hospitals involved, Mrs Hoskin had suffered injury through the need for an additional general anaesthetic procedure, causing distress and worry, a Letter of Claim, along with offers of an early settlement (Part 36) were sent to the NHS trusts responsible. As it was the combined errors of both hospitals that contributed to the claimant's injury, the cost of a financial settlement would be split between the two parties.
Both the Oxford University and Roy Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trusts accepted their part in Mrs Hoskin's misfortune, admitting liability and agreeing, as per the Part 36 offer of early settlement, to pay damages of £2,500.
Mrs Hoskin praised Sarah Chambers and the service she'd received from Simpson Millar, commenting:
"I was so pleased that Simpson Millar was able to get a good result for me on this case. Thankfully, I now have closure."