Complaints against dentists rise

The number of patients’ complaints against dentists is on the increase – and high dental fees could be fuelling the rise.

The General Dental Council (GDC) dealt with 69 conduct cases against dentists in 2007 and 14 dentists were erased from the register.

These figures have been climbing in recent years:

• In 2004 there were 31 cases and five dentists were struck off the register
• In 2005 there were 44 cases and 14 dentists were struck off the register
• In 2006 there were 64 cases and 16 dentists were struck off the register

Common complaints include poor treatment, fraud and unjust claims for payment.

Kevin Lewis, Dentistry columnist and dental director with Dental Protection – which insures 70% of dentists in England against malpractice claims – said: ‘Money changes hands in dentistry, but it doesn’t in medicine.

‘When I qualified as a dentist, the most you could pay on the NHS was £1. Today, when you have parted with hundreds of pounds, you are going to be less forgiving.’

Dental Protection paid out £3million in damages in 2006, a 40% rise since 2000.

The commonest claims were for root treatments that didn’t work or crowns and bridges that broke.

More than twice as many claims are made against dentists as against doctors, Mr Lewis said.

Such is the demand for advice and assistance from Dental Protection in the last 12 months that it has taken on extra staff to deal with the workload.

Issues arising from the latest NHS contract together with the GDC’s new Fitness to Practice procedures have had a major impact upon the work of DPL, and also on the scale of the legal and advisory resources that are required to service the increased demand.

With 50,000 members and 70% share of the UK market, the most recent appointments at Dental Protection have brought together the largest number of dento-legal advisers in 116 years of the company’s existence.

Dental director Kevin Lewis said, ‘Our members rightly expect this organisation to look for ways to help where others might not do so, and to ‘go the extra mile’ rather than cutting corners.

‘There has never been a dental professional indemnity organisation, anywhere in the world, to match us in terms of our size, financial strength and quality of service.’

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