Would it be possible to claim compensation for the loss of a tooth due to a dentist error if my dentist missed an infection developing in my gum which meant I later had to have a tooth extracted?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

If your dentist has made a mistake which led to you having a tooth needlessly extracted, you should be eligible to claim compensation for the loss of a tooth due to a dentist error. However, the essential consideration that has to be taken into account before a claim for losing a tooth due to a dentist mistake is that ‘at the time and in the circumstances’ would another dentist have spotted the development of the infection in your gum. If another competent dentist ‘on the balance of probabilities’ would have overlooked the gum infection, it may be difficult to prove that your dentist was negligent, and unlikely that a claim for an unnecessary tooth extraction would be successful.

Unlike injury claims following road traffic accidents or claims for injuries sustained at work, the Injuries Board will decline an application for an assessment of compensation for the loss of a tooth due a dentist error as your claim will be resolved on medical opinion and is considered to be a case of potential medical negligence. Therefore you will have to use the services of a solicitor to pursue a claim for losing a tooth due to a dentist mistake.

Before proceeding with a claim for an unnecessary tooth extraction, the solicitor will want to know the circumstances of your gum infection, how long had elapsed between dental check-ups and why the gum infection necessitated the removal of a tooth rather than being treated with antibiotics. If he or she feels that you have reasonable grounds to claim compensation for the loss of a tooth due to a dentist error, your solicitor will arrange for an independent dental expert to review your dental treatment and determine whether a claim for an unnecessary tooth extraction is justified.

If it is felt by the expert that you have a claim for losing a tooth due to a dentist mistake, your solicitor will write a ‘Letter of Claim’ to your dentist; advising him or her that you are claiming compensation for the loss of a tooth due a dentist error and supporting the letter of claim with the evidence that has been compiled by the dental expert. Your solicitor may also accompany the letter with an invitation to settle your claim for an unnecessary tooth extraction.

How much compensation you ultimately receive in settlement of your claim will depend on the location of the tooth, how much dental work will be required to implant a replacement tooth and the pain and discomfort you are likely to experience while the remedial treatment is being done. It is important that the value of your claim for an unnecessary tooth extraction is calculated quickly, as you may receive an unsolicited offer of compensation from your dentist´s medical insurers while negotiations are ongoing to resolve your claim.

Any direct approach by an insurance company should always be referred to your solicitor to ensure that you receive a fair and adequate settlement of compensation for the loss of a tooth due to a dentist error and, in order to get the process of making a claim while evidence of potential negligence is still recent, it is suggested that you contact a solicitor at the first possible opportunity.