Litigation in Dentistry: Do you see what I see?

This post is based on a talk by James Foster at the Young Dentist Conference 2015. 

I've posted quite a bit recently about litigation - there's been lots of talks by Dental Protection that I've been to!

There are lots of challenges for dentists in today's environment, not just dento-legal challenges of course. Some of these challenges include:
  • Complaints (see a previous post about why people complain here)
  • Negligence claims
  • Regulatory investigations (GDC, CQC)
  • Disciplinary procedures
  • Criminal investigations e.g. fraud

Top litigation claims against dentists

  1. Crown/Bridgework
  2. Endodontics
  3. Nerve damage
  4. Oral surgery
  5. Restorative work
  6. Periodontal claims
With the increase in quick-fix orthodontics, implant surgery and facial aesthetics (botox/dermal fillers), these will surely enter the list soon!

In a dentists career, there are around 250,000 interactions with patients (on average). During your career, you will have around 1-2 GDC cases, and 3-4 negligence claims. 

To reduce your risk of a complaint you must learn how to communicate effectively with patients. See my previous post about this here. Also be aware of what you post online on social media - closed groups and forums are not as safe as you may think!

How to respond to a complaint effectively

  1. Acknowledge the complaint
  2. Express meaningful regret
  3. Tell the patient that you are sorry - this is not an admission of fault
  4. Discuss possible solutions
  5. Do not abandon the patient

James showed us some rather terrifying pictures of negligent dentists or claims that patients had made which included hypochlorite accidents and surgical emphysemas! It certainly shocked a lot of us. 
The important message wasn't to scare us off practising dentistry, but to prepare us for when things go wrong and how to explain risks and adverse situations to patients.

To see my summary of Raj Rattan's talk at the conference see here.

Do you have any thoughts about the increase in litigation in dentistry in the past few years? Please leave your comments in the section below!

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