My dentist says that I will be ineligible to claim compensation for a tooth implant that went wrong because the implant was fitted more than two years ago. Is he right?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

Your eligibility to claim compensation for a tooth implant that went wrong is going to depend on when it was discovered that you had sustained an injury from the faulty tooth implant; as the ‘two-year rule’ your dentist mentions applies from the ‘Date of Knowledge’ that an injury has been sustained, rather than on the day that a negligent act took place.

The majority of claims for negligent tooth implant dentistry are made on the grounds that an infection developed in or around the implant – sometimes many years after the implant has been fitted – and, in order to claim compensation for a tooth implant that went wrong, it will have to be demonstrated that the infection was due to the negligence of the dentist who fitted the tooth implant and not due to a subsequent lack of oral hygiene.

Provided that two years have not yet elapsed since it was discovered that you had developed an infection in/around the dental implant (or other injury was diagnosed), you should still be in good time to make a claim for an injury due to negligent dental work, but it is recommended that you confirm this with a solicitor as soon as possible.

The solicitor will listen as you explain when you had the implant fitted and why, when you were diagnosed as having an infection in/around the implant and what you were told had caused it. The solicitor will likely ask you to undergo an examination by an independent dental expert to confirm that the implants were fitted negligently, and also request access to your dental records to establish the degree of infection you suffered.

Should the independent dental expert consider that ‘on the balance of probability’ the dentist who fitted the implants displayed a poor professional performance, he or she will recommend to your solicitor that you pursue a compensation claim for an injury due to negligent dental work. If you wish to proceed with a claim for compensation for a tooth implant that went wrong, your solicitor will send a ‘Letter of Claim’ to your dentist, advising them that you are making claims for negligent tooth implant dentistry against them and supporting the letter with the evidence of negligence compiled by the independent expert.

Once liability for your injury has been acknowledged, your solicitor will enter into negotiations with your dentist´s medical insurance company to obtain your maximum entitlement to compensation for a tooth implant that went wrong – not only for the pain you suffered when the infection first developed, but also for remedial dental treatment to ensure that infection never returns.

Footnote: If you have only just decided that you do not like the look, shape or colour of the implant, then your dentist is correct in that you will be unable to make a claim for an injury due to negligent dental work; although if the tooth implant has broken because of a fault with the product, you would still be able to recover the cost of a replacement implant and any medical costs associated with remedial dental treatment via a product liability claim. To confirm your eligibility to make claims for negligent tooth implant dentistry, you should speak with a solicitor at the first possible opportunity.