Perhaps the main reason why we have seen so many dental abscess compensation claims is because this is a condition which can take some time to materialise. It often begins as general tooth decay or tooth damage with bacteria building up on the tooth, in the tooth and then spreading to the roots. This can very quickly create an infection which is extremely painful and is often identified by the presence of pus in the affected area. It is the infection of the surrounding tissue which together with the tooth nerve can lead to excruciating pain.
While it is often possible to drain the abscess and clear the infection with antibiotics, sometimes the patient may need surgery. It is the fact that the condition takes some time to build up which can lead to dental abscess compensation being paid where it is proven that the abscess could and should have been noticed and treated more swiftly.
Dentist Duty Of Care
While we often talk about a duty of care that employers have towards their employees, all practitioners and businesses also have a duty of care to their customers. It is their duty and obligation to carry out the relevant dental checks where possible and spot the emergence of potentially dangerous abscesses. If an abscess is caught early it is often simply a case of draining, prescribing antibiotics, and repairing the tooth, and at worst possibly removing the tooth. In certain circumstances an underdiagnosed abscess can lead to permanent health problems with the teeth, mouth and jaw. These could be as extreme as disfigurements as the tissue literally rots away as a consequence of the infection.
Symptoms Of A Dental Abscess
An abscess is the cumulative impact of either tooth decay or cracked teeth which are attacked by bacteria. The bacteria, if left untreated, can find its way into the root canal which is where the real problems begin. Some of the more common symptoms of an early stage abscess include:
- Bitter taste in the mouth
- Extremely painful toothache which can emerge as throbbing or shooting pains
- Red swollen gums
- Visible pus in the mouth
- Pain while chewing or exerting pressure on teeth
- A swelling of the jaw
- Swollen neck glands
We know that many people have a phobia of dentists which can sometimes mean going through the pain barrier until the toothache has gone. Unfortunately, we also know from dental checks that this apparent reduction in pain can simply be as a consequence of the tooth pulp and nerves experiencing significant damage. The damage can be so severe that the toothache can stop altogether although unfortunately, as a consequence of the nerve damage, this allows the pus and infection to wreak havoc in the surrounding area.
The vast majority of children and adults in the UK will receive regular requests from their dentist for a check-up. If they attend these check-ups and early or late stage abscesses are undiagnosed then this may be grounds for claiming dental abscess compensation. If an individual chooses not to attend their dentist for regular check-ups and only decides to make an appointment when the pain becomes greater than the phobia, this will significantly impact any claims for compensation.
Treating A Dental Abscess
As we touched on above, an abscess is essentially the culmination of bacteria which leads to an infection towards the root of a tooth or teeth. In serious cases a patient will need to undertake surgery to remove an abscess but in general they can be drained fairly quickly, flushed out and a dose of antibiotics used to clear the remaining infection.
Those who have suffered from an abscess will be well aware of the putrid smell and taste of the pus as it leaks from the damaged root. Once the damage has gone beyond tooth decay and cracked teeth unfortunately there is no simple treatment.
Proving Negligence In Dental Abscess Compensation Claims
We know there is great pressure on the UK dental industry as the population grows older and larger. However, both a qualified dentist and dental staff have a duty of care to all clients and are obliged to provide timely treatment in a professional manner. There are a number of occasions where it may be possible to claim compensation with examples such as:
- A delay in diagnosing a dental abscess.
- Mistreatment of tooth decay or broken teeth.
- Substandard draining of the abscess which can lead to further infection.
- Failure to administer a suitable course of antibiotics.
- Mistakes during dental surgery which can lead to further complications and treatment.
- Incomplete deep cleaning treatments which fail to kill the underlying infection.
A dentist also has a duty of care to their staff which covers issues such as:
- Appropriate initial and ongoing training.
- Matching experienced staff with specific tasks.
- Sufficient safety equipment.
- Clean dental tools.
These lists are by no means inclusive but they do give you an idea of the issues which often arise in cases of dental negligence.
Claiming Dental Abscess Compensation
While the ever-growing burden on dentists across the UK has been well documented, and the vast majority will spot the emergence of a dental abscess at an early stage, this is not always the case. The majority of dental negligence claims tend to revolve around misdiagnosis at an early stage of tooth decay and tooth damage.
Those who have suffered serious dental issues will be well aware of the pain associated with infections and dental abscesses. It can be excruciating and even those requiring only the simplest of treatments can have an impact upon a person’s working life and personal life. If you can prove that either your dental abscess was not diagnosed in a timely manner or the treatment was of a standard less than that expected by the industry, you may have a case for compensation.
Evidence In Dental Abscess Claims
Those who have suffered serious dental issues such as abscesses will know it is imperative that corrective treatment is received as soon as possible to address any mistakes or dental misdiagnosis. Over the period that a patient has visited their dentist they will likely have built up an array of x-rays which could prove useful as evidence in a court of law. Very often early stage abscesses will appear on x-rays which are often taken to confirm tooth decay and potential root problems. Patient records will also show dates and times when various treatments were administered and notes will show the result of various examinations over the years.
Once suitable dental treatment has been received it is time to put together all of the evidence which includes potential witness statements, photographs, patient records, third-party expert observations as well as a timeline of events. Unfortunately, there have been numerous occasions where mistreatment or misdiagnosis of a ental abscess has led to chronic tissue erosion leading to issues with the jawbone, facial muscles and even deformation. While there is traditionally a three-year window of opportunity from the actual injury during which you can stake your claim for compensation, it is advisable to pursue your dental abscess claim sooner rather than later. The longer you leave it the more blurred the details of the dental abscess can become which can have an impact upon the outcome.
Most dental negligence solicitors will have come across various issues to do with a dental abscess and they will fairly quickly be able to review your claim. If they deem you have a good chance of success they will likely agree to take on your case on a No Win No Fee basis. This ensures that the claimant has no liability for any legal expenses incurred by the dental negligence solicitor and they will pay a “success fee” on a successful outcome with a percentage of the compensation award split on a predetermined basis. In the vast majority of dental abscess compensation claims, where it is fairly obvious there has been a degree of negligence, the defendant will often pursue an out-of-court settlement to minimise potential legal expenses. Where dental negligence is contested, or there may be a case of shared dental negligence amongst a number of parties, this will likely go before the courts.
Compensation In Dental Abscess Claims
There are two specific types of compensation for dental abscess available which are known as general damages and special damages. In dental abscess claims general damages refer to compensation based on the severity of the dental abscess and impact on a person’s life. This includes:
- Pain and suffering from the dental abscess
- Life changing injuries
- Mental trauma
In theory an award for general damages could be unlimited but in reality the courts and insurance companies tend to rely on previous dental negligence compensation awards where similar injuries occurred. There may be some discretion/variation to reflect the specifics of individual dental abscess claims but in general they do tend to work within relatively narrow compensation bands.
The situation with special damages in dental abscess claims is slightly different because they are purely and simply reimbursement of direct costs associated with the dental abscess as well as funding for future treatment or financial loss. These include issues such as:
• Loss of earnings because of the dental abscess
• Future loss of earnings
• Dental and medical expenses
• Future dental/medical expenses
• Adaptions to the home
• Additional transport expenses
Neither of these two lists is inclusive but they do give you an idea of each type of compensation and what they relate to.
If you have suffered because of a dental abscess and believe dental negligence was the cause call us today to discuss whether you have a dental abscess compensation claim.