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A question of competence

15 July 2014
If you don’t feel confident about providing a certain treatment, the advice is simple – don’t do it. Early referral is the best option in cases beyond your level of expertise...

A practitioner agreed to provide multiple crowns for a patient who had presented with a very poor dentition. The practitioner received approval from the funding agency to provide 28 units of crown and bridge work.

The practitioner’s experience was limited and the healthcare funding agency did not request any confirmation that the practitioner was suitably experienced to provide such complex treatment.

The patient received the treatment and presented a number of months later with some periodontal problems. Eventually the patient transferred to another practitioner who advised that the recently fitted crowns and bridges would have to be replaced. The patient took legal action against the first dentist. 

Beyond the level of expertise

Expert advice confirmed that the complexity of the case was such that it was beyond the level of expertise of the dentist who had provided the treatment, being based on a flawed treatment plan at the outset. The expert was also critical of the way in which the treatment had been provided, noting particularly the lack of use of a face bow and articulator.

The specialist indicated that an early referral would certainly have resulted in a less complex treatment plan. The case was settled out of court to protect the practitioner’s integrity.

Learning point:
Referral of cases beyond an individual dentist’s range of skill is a matter of judgement, let it be your own decision rather than the Court’s opinion with the benefit of hindsight.
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These case studies are based on real events and provided here as guidance. They do not constitute legal advice but are published to help members better understand how they might deal with certain situations. This is just one of the many benefits dental members enjoy as part of their subscription. 
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