The Expert Witness Role In Dentist Misdiagnosis Claims

Dentist Misdiagnosis Claims

Few things can cause more indescribable agony than dental or gum issues that are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Un/misdiagnosed dental and gum problems are an extremely common cause of dental negligence claims and in many cases, the claimant’s or defendant’s solicitor requires an expert witness report to aid the court in understanding the cause and consequences of the un/misdiagnosis.

What is dental un/misdiagnosis?

If a dentist fails to identify particular oral health symptoms this can lead to misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a condition altogether. Some examples include a failure to diagnose or misdiagnosing:

  • gum disease
  • periodontal disease (a severe form of gum disease)
  • oral cancer
  • serious tooth decay
  • the need for a root canal treatment
  • the need for a tooth extraction

These types of cases can also lead to the General Dental Council conducting a fitness to practice investigation and hearing. Both parties regularly engage Dental Expert Witnesses to provide evidence as to why the patient’s problem was un/misdiagnosed.

There are a variety of situations which can result in a dentist un/misdiagnosing a problem, especially following the Coronavirus pandemic which led to many people not going to the dentist for at least two years. Dental professionals are now dealing with patients that may have several serious problems concerning their teeth and gums, making the risk of un/misdiagnosis more likely. This situation also has had a knock-on effect of increasing the number of dentists suffering from stress and burnout. This has led to highly disturbing figures around the number of dentists planning to leave the profession; in March 2022, it was reported that 45% of dentists with an NHS contract anticipated selling their practice in the next two years and almost 50% considered leaving the profession entirely (with 24% looking to retire and a further 24% simply quitting). Fewer dentists left to deal with an increasingly ageing population will undoubtedly lead to more dental negligence claims, some genuine and some not. The role of the expert witness in such cases will become more necessary than ever to ensure both patients and dental professionals receive justice in clinical negligence claims.

Dentist Misdiagnosis Claims

What is the role of expert evidence in dental un/misdiagnosis cases?

An expert witness can assist the court in establishing the primary cause of dentist misdiagnosis as well as provide a long-term prognosis concerning repair and recovery.

In cases involving negligence claims, the claimant must prove that on the balance of probabilities:

  • a duty of care was owed to them, and
  • the duty of care was breached, and
  • they suffered harm as a result of the breach

Because the primary cause of dental un/misdiagnosis can be obscure, expert evidence is often required to establish causation and deal with any issues regarding remoteness of damage.

In dental negligence cases, compensation is there to put the claimant back in the same position as if the cause of the injury had not happened. Expert witnesses are often instructed to provide “quantum reports” to help the court calculate the amount of the compensation award.

Wrapping up

Dental Expert Witnesses play a vital role in un/misdiagnosis claims. The impact on both the patient and the dentist in such cases can be life-changing, therefore an expert who has a deep understanding not only of the profession, but also of how to interpret images and dental records must be called in to provide an expert report.

How can Expert Court Reports Ltd help?

At Expert Court Reports, we are well-placed to assist any party that instructs us. Whether it is a defendant who faces the typical stresses and strains of any dental professional, or a claimant who may be navigating the regulatory landscape for the first time, we can offer advice and provide our expert opinion in a professional yet sensitive manner.

We have several dental experts who can provide evidence in claims arising from dental un/misdiagnosis. Our team can also provide expert reports on chronic pain as well as psychological matters.

Speak to our experts

Expert Court Reports provides expert witnesses and medicolegal court reports for solicitors, barristers and other agencies, including the police, probation services, prisons, and third-sector organisations, as well as private clients.

To discuss any issues raised in this article, please call us on 01865 587865, email office@expertcourtreports.co.uk, or request a call by completing our online form.

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