22 June 2010

Q. If a clinical dental technician (CDT) referred a patient to a dentist for a treatment plan involving a partial chrome denture and the dentist designed the chrome denture which the technician manufactured and fitted and subsequently a natural tooth broke down due to the design of the denture, which clinician is responsible for the failed treatment?

If a clinical dental technician (CDT) referred a patient to a dentist for a treatment plan involving a partial chrome denture and the dentist designed the chrome denture which the technician manufactured and fitted and subsequently a natural tooth broke down due to the design of the denture, which clinician is responsible for the failed treatment?

It is generally considered that the clinician who provides treatment to a patient takes the ultimate responsibility. In this particular situation, although the dentist may have designed the partial chrome denture, the CDT would presumably have agreed with that design before undertaking its manufacture. If there was a fault within the design that placed undue pressure on a natural tooth, then the CDT's clinical experience should have noted this fact and brought it to the attention of the dentist. If no such conversation took place or had been documented it is likely that a court or the GDC would conclude that the CDT was happy with the design.

Having said that it could be reasonably be argued that the dentist has a degree of responsibility in that s/he should have designed a denture in such a way that it did not put undue pressure on an individual tooth. If such an argument was made in a court then the judge would probably conclude that the dentist had a degree of responsibility - perhaps 25%.

In reality such arguments are merely academic since the patient would still have suffered from the dental treatment, however the responsibility is shared. Dentistry relies on effective teamworking and the General Dental Council provides some useful guidance on the principles of teamworking both as a text download and as a series of audio files.

Click here to view the GDC's guidance, Principles of Dental Team Working.

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