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Gum disease patients net £2.8m compensation

Periodontal disease is very common among UK adults, however it can be something overlooked by dentists who focus too much on their patients’ teeth. This is not recommended, as not only is it bad for your patients’ overall oral health but it can also lead to legal issues down the line.

An analysis from Leo Briggs, dento-legal advisor for the Dental Defence Union (DDU), found that a total of £2.8 million was paid out to patients between 2008 and 2012 in compensation for claims regarding gum disease. A total of 170 claims, 126 of which were settled, were analysed by Mr Briggs and the DDU, and the results are worrying.

The average compensation claim cost rose from £21,000 in 2008 to £31,000 in 2012, with the largest claim being for £170,000. This was due to a failure to diagnose and treat periodontal disease, highlighting how costly it can be for dentists if they do not pay complete attention to every patient.

Compensation of £170,000 may seem excessive, but in that case the patient affected was unable to work due to the undiagnosed periodontal disease. The bulk of the compensation, therefore, was for the loss of earnings they incurred as a result.

“Dental professionals have a critical role to play in monitoring their patient’s gum health at each check-up, diagnosing periodontal disease and advising patients at risk. In the minority of cases where this doesn’t happen, the dental professional is increasingly vulnerable to a negligence claim and even a General Dental Council (GDC) investigation,” said Mr Briggs.

A compensation claim might not just be costly for dentists affected. If word gets out that you are being sued, it could completely negate your dental marketing as you gain a reputation for negligence, even if it is not one you deserve.

The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen to you is to make sure you are giving your full attention to each patient, as much as is possible. That way, you can make sure you don’t miss any signs of periodontal disease that could become nasty in the future.

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