Will I be able to claim compensation for a dentist error with anaesthetic if I developed hearing problems after dental surgery?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

Your eligibility to claim compensation for a dentist error with anaesthetic is going to hinge on whether the dentist used excessive amounts of nitrous oxide during a procedure which either caused your hearing problem to develop or exacerbated an existing middle ear condition.

Ideally you should discuss your treatment at the dentist with a solicitor. After hearing about the treatment you were having at the dentist, how long after the dental appointment you started to develop hearing problems and what steps you have taken to seek medical help for your injury, if it is likely that your dentist has indeed caused your injury, your solicitor will engage the services of an independent medical expert to determine whether ‘on the balance of probabilities’ your hearing loss could have been avoided if greater care had been taken with the amount of nitrous oxide you were administered.

Provided that the medical expert can confirm the opinion that your dentist displayed a poor professional performance during the administration of an anaesthetic which was directly responsible for your subsequent hearing problems, your solicitor will then send the dentist a ‘Letter of Claim’ – advising the dentist that you are claiming compensation for injuries caused by anaesthetic and supporting the letter with the evidence of alleged negligence compiled by the medical expert.

How much compensation for a dentist error with anaesthetic you will be entitled to recover – should the dentist acknowledge their liability for your hearing problems – will depend on the extent of the injury, the consequences that your hearing problems have had on your quality of life and whether or not it has affected your ability to work. If you made the injury worse by your own negligence (typically prodding the ear with an ear bud), the value of your claim for a dentist anaesthetic injury could be reduced to reflect your own lack of care.

Should the dentist fail to acknowledge their liability for your hearing problems, your solicitor will discuss with you the option of issuing court proceedings. Whether this is a viable option will depend on the strength of your case and the value of your claim for a dentist anaesthetic injury. It may be the case that the dentist´s medical insurance company does not want to take a risk on an unfavourable outcome in court and makes an offer of compensation for injuries caused by anaesthetic without an admission of liability.

If you have not done so already, it is strongly recommended that you seek a professional medical examination of your ear problems. It is likely that your GP will refer you to an audiologist and the prognosis made by the audiologist will be used by your solicitor to calculate the value of your claim for a dentist anaesthetic injury. As the process of claiming compensation for injuries caused by anaesthetic can be long-winded, it is also suggested that you contact a solicitor at the first possible opportunity.