Hygienist receives a complaint following treatment

08 March 2023
A hygienist member contacted Dental Protection to report that the practice she worked in had received a strongly worded telephone complaint from a patient, concerning the hygiene treatment she had provided.

The patient, who had not had any hygiene treatment in eight years, had complained that the procedure was unnecessarily rough and prolonged, and had resulted in bleeding, swollen and infected gums, and severe sensitivity to cold.

The patient had subsequently attended their GP, who diagnosed gingival infection and prescribed antibiotics. Unfortunately, this led the patient to conclude that the hygienist had either used non-sterile instruments that caused the infection or had failed to prescribe antibiotics for the gum infection, which they felt must have been present at the time of the dental treatment.

The receptionist had recorded the complaint in writing, and the practice, had forwarded the complaint to the hygienist for a response. 

How did Dental Protection assist?

The hygienist, who felt overwhelmed by the situation and ‘outranked’ by the GP diagnosis, had unfortunately dwelled on the complaint for a few days before contacting Dental Protection. We assisted in writing a suitable letter to the patient, demonstrating sympathy for his discomfort, and offering a detailed explanation of the treatment and likely cause of the postoperative symptoms (including the effects of the patient’s low dose aspirin medication).

The patient was also invited to attend the practice where the hygienist and dentist had the opportunity to address any remaining concerns. The hygienist was pleased to later confirm that the patient had not pursued the matter further and had since returned to the practice.

Learning points

  • The role and place of antibiotics in dentistry is unfortunately a poorly understood process by much of the public, and often the subject of patient complaints. Dental Protection can guide you towards appropriate guidelines to reflect protocols as to when antibiotics should or should not be prescribed.

  • The member was feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to deal with the complaint. The experts at Dental Protection deal with these situations daily and can provide advice on responding appropriately.


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 Protection members enjoy as part of their subscription. 
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