Select location
Membership information
0800 561 9000
Dentolegal advice
0800 561 1010
Refine my search

When doing nothing is an option

Post date: 11/07/2014 | Time to read article: 1 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 14/11/2018

Acting outside of one’s level of experience is one thing but failing to explain all treatment options, or the possibility of having none at all, is quite another...

A young patient attended her general dental practitioner complaining of pain. The diagnosis of pericoronitis was made and the practitioner advised removal of the tooth which had a history of three previous infections.

The practitioner was inexperienced in oral surgery and unfortunately the wisdom tooth fractured upon removal. In the surgical process that followed, the patient ended up with permanent lingual paraesthesia.

Among the allegations in the ensuing case were:

  • The practitioner should have advised the patient that it was possible to make a referral to a specialist.
  • The patient was not offered the option of leaving the tooth in place, i.e. no treatment.

The dentist felt that she was not under an obligation to advise the patient about referral to a specialist as she felt capable of performing the procedure herself. She did not feel that it was right to offer an alternative course of treatment, or even no treatment, as it was in the best interests of the patient to have the tooth extracted.

Possibility of paraesthesia

Although the patient had been warned of the possibility of paraesthesia, had she known of the inexperience of the practitioner or the possibility that the tooth could be left in place and the infection treated symptomatically, she might not have allowed the treatment to go ahead.

On the advice of counsel, a small settlement was made since a court was likely to find that the patient should have been advised that no treatment was an alternative. It was also considered that the difficulty of the extraction was beyond the practitioner’s experience.

Learning point:
An over-paternalistic approach by a practitioner may prevent the patient from taking a decision based upon the full facts of the case.

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. 
For more detailed advice on any issues, contact us

Share this article

Load more reviews

You've already submitted a review for this item

New site feature tour

Introducing an improved
online experience

You'll notice a few things have changed on our website. After asking our members what they want in an online platform, we've made it easier to access our membership benefits and created a more personalised user experience.

Why not take our quick 60-second tour? We'll show you how it all works and it should only take a minute.

Take the tour Continue to site

Dentolegal advice
0800 561 1010
Membership information
0800 561 9000

Key contact details

Should you need to contact us, our phone numbers are always visible.

Personalise your search

We'll save your profession in the "I am a..." dropdown filter for next time.

Tour completed

Now you've seen all of the updated features, it's time for you to try them out.

Continue to site
Take again