The Dental Defence Union has released new figures which highlight a sharp increase in claims against dental professionals for dental implants. Compared to the previous 5-year period, there was an increase in complaints of 41% between 2009 and 2013. Of the claims settled to date, a staggering £4 million has been paid out.
311 claims were received by the DDU in relation to dental implants in the 10 year period between 2004 and 2013, with 115 being settled, to date, for an average of £34,000 with the highest claim settling for over £200,000.
Failure of treatment was the most common cause of complaint, with over a third citing this as the cause for the claim. The second most common, unsatisfactory treatment, featured in 17% of claims.
Dr Leo Briggs, dento-legal adviser at the Dental Defence Union, said: “Dental implants may seem like the perfect way to re-build a patient’s smile, but, like any dental treatment there are risks involved and things may not always go to plan.
“It is important that dental professionals are aware of these risks and take steps to both minimise them and explain them to patients in advance so that they have realistic expectations.”
As a result of these complaint increases, the DDU has issued comprehensive advice to dentists to avoid the problem of patients bringing a claim against them. These include:
- Always obtain and record a detailed patient history and be alert to the contraindications for implant treatment, such as untreated periodontal disease, immunosuppression and smoking.
- Explain the benefits, risks and alternatives (including no treatment) to patients as part of the consent process and record the discussion in the clinical notes. Be careful not to raise unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved
- Give patients a cooling-off period to consider their decision.
- Recognise the limits of your clinical skills. Offer referral to a periodontist, oral surgeon or restorative dentist in complex cases if you lack the necessary training, experience or technical competence
- Explain to patients how to care for their new implant and stress the importance of rigorous oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups.
The new DDU digital journal is out now and includes a range of articles including one from Susan N’Jie discussing how the decision is made to settle a claim, as well advice on how best to handle online complaints. To view visit http://ddujournal.theddu.com/