Dr George Wright, Deputy Dental Director of Dental Protection, reports on a case about a first-year associate who received a letter of complaint.
Dr G had recently started his first associate job at a city-centre practice, taking over an established list of patients from recently retired dentist, Dr H. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that Dr H had not been taking bitewing radiographs at recommended intervals and had failed to maintain any records of periodontal screening. Sadly, several longstanding patients were attending with multiple undiagnosed carious lesions and advanced periodontal disease. One patient in particular, Mrs J, was unhappy at being told she required two fillings and had early gum disease. A week after her appointment, Mrs J sent a letter of complaint to Dr G.
How did Dental Protection help?
Unsure about how to respond, Dr G contacted Dental Protection for advice. Dr G’s case was allocated to Dr W, a specialist periodontist who reviewed the complaint and clinical records.
Dr W advised Dr G that it was not her responsibility to respond to any concerns relating to the previous dentist’s care and suggested that she share the letter of complaint with Dr H for comment.
Dental Protection was also able to assist Dr G with a draft response letter setting out her findings and explaining her position.
Fortunately, Dr G had kept detailed records of her initial assessment and these, together with the available radiographs, allowed Dr G to provide an empathetic response which protected her position.
Mrs J later accepted an apology from Dr H and continues her treatment with her new dentist, Dr G.
- It is appropriate to show the letter of complaint to the dentist that provided the treatment in question. On many occasions you will not know the full picture and your colleagues will be likely happy for the opportunity for you to re-establish a good rapport with the patient.
- Try not to be critical of other clinicians’ treatment but be accurate in your assessment and the issues you found. Be mindful when suggesting a treatment plan to include all appropriate options for the patient to decide.
- Do not be afraid to contact Dental Protection for any assistance with complaints or to receive further advice if needed.