UK dentists make patients pay for errors

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British patients are having to pay to fix tooth damage caused by their dentists despite rules which say dentists should pick up the costs if they are at fault, finds Citizens Advice.

The national charity helped people in England and Wales with 4,000 dental care problems last year, up by 9% from the year before.

Substandard service was the biggest issue reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service about dental care between April 2015 and March 2016. An analysis of 354 of these cases revealed that 3 in 4 concerned treatments that caused the patient further problems. People reported dentists cracking healthy teeth during a treatment, fillings that came out and dentures that didn’t fit. In one case, someone had paid thousands of pounds for a crown that didn’t fit, couldn’t be removed and had bruised the patient’s face in the process.

In a quarter (23%) of those cases patients also said dentists refused to offer a refund or a free-of-charge repair. In one case, a woman in her 70s paid £500 to have her teeth capped but the dentist chipped her two front teeth during the treatment. When the dentist didn’t offer a repair for the chipped teeth or any compensation, she moved to a different dentist and had to pay a further £700 to get the damage fixed.

Citizens Advice is calling on dentists to follow the rules by correcting their mistakes free of charge instead of passing costs onto patients. Gillian Guy, CEI of Citizens Advice, said: “Some patients are having to pay up to fix their dentist’s mistakes.

“While many people get a good service from their dentist, some patients are having treatments that leave them with a new problem like a loose or painful filling or healthy teeth that have been cracked.

“Not only do they have to undergo further treatment to fix the problem – in some cases dentists are breaking the rules by wrongly asking patients to pay the extra costs. If a dental treatment causes more problems for the patient, the law states that in most cases the dentist should be offering to repair this at no extra charge. Asking patients to pay could put their health at risk if they are unable to afford the further treatment.

“Dentists need to make sure that they aren’t charging patients for their mistakes and that they provide patients with clear information about how they can claim compensation if something goes wrong.

“Anyone who is concerned that their treatment has caused further problems should report this to their dentist. They can also get free and confidential advice from Citizens Advice about their options for making a complaint.”

Under the UK’s Consumer Rights Act, which came into force last year, patients of private dentists whose treatment has not been carried out with reasonable care are entitled to have any problems fixed by their dentist. If a problem can’t be fixed, the patient has a right to get at least a partial refund.

The National Health Service (NHS) dental contract also states that NHS patients who get treatments like fillings, inlays or crowns are also entitled to have this repaired or replaced within 12 months, at no extra charge.

Citizen Advice is outlining how people who feel they are being charged for dental work unfairly or who have had a dental treatment that caused them more problems can report this.

Citizens Advice material

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