I’ve recently had a rather unpleasant experience with my dental practice, and thought I’d share my experiences, so people may avoid the grief that I’ve had.

Some months ago, it turns out that my dentist was stopped from practicing – not from poor treatment, if anything I’d say he was very good but from what I can determine from financial malpractice. It seems that he had a number of patients who were meant to be treated under the NHS but had been charged private rates. I had thought I’d been one of his NHS patients, but it turns out not to have been the case – but I only discovered this when it was too late.

As my dentist owned and ran the practice as a solo operation, he had to bring in a locum until he could sell the practice. By this stage the practice was meant to have supplied the local Primary Care Trust with details of those patients he had on his records that are under the NHS – those people where then given the chance to change dentists, no other patients where told of the problems, and it may have been possible that not all NHS patients had been advised of the circumstances as the practice’s records I’m told are very poor.

Anyway, my tooth ache was a bad tooth that was going to need some root canal work. Over two visits the dentist attempts to clear the canal, on the second visit the drill bit jams into my tooth, and he can’t get the drill bit out. So after the practice staff put my dentist through to a local endo-dentist (read specialist) he holds a very loud phone conversation discussing the mess we’re in.

No I’m not the most comfortable person in the dental chair – is anyone? So hearing the phone conversation isn’t pleasant, to the point I’m wanting to be sick – but dare not move my mouth as I have a chunk of metal lodged in it!

The conclusion is that either I lose the tooth or I’m patched up and referred to the specialist. Losing one of your first molars isn’t attractive, so its the referral, at this point I’m told the cost of the treatment has gone from the original estimate of £280 to £600! The drill piece is cut and my tooth is patched up – then dentist charges me another £80 for that session on top of the 1st one.

A couple of hours after leaving the dentist the situation really hits home and, the question begs – why should I have to pay the extra costs – all £320 extra for something that wasn’t my mistake.

So I start calling, first NHS direct – sorry can’t help and at a loss as to who I should speak with as they’ve not got any information since the way dentists are payed and employed through the NHS. Try the PCT, to discover the full extend of the back story, and that now I’ve effectively started with private treatment, they have no responsibility and no dentist will take on the work given the rate paid by the NHS for this treatment may not cover the cost of fixing the mess. Back to my practice – the dentist’s reaction – will only pay if I can prove malpractice; but given its the drill that broke not the dentists – not easy thing to achieve. Next up – General Dental Council, nope they can’t help even though they’re supposed to represent the dentists. Then an email or two the ambulance chasing legal companies – no answer. Finally I run across the Dental Complaints Service , and I can’t praise them enough.

When I explained the problem and the run around I’d had, they very quickly agreed that they could help. First up – I was advised to write to the dentist and inform him formally of my complaint, and the discussion with the complaints service. Complicated a bit the fact that the locum had returned to Germany, and then comeback to the UK at a practice in Scotland. In the meantime they gave me the paper work which allowed them to see my dental records. The council basically, have to give the dentist to address the complaint, otherwise they can then take legal action on your behalf.

In the end the dentist offered to pay some of the costs. Given that this had dragged on from the start of the treatment to finding someone who would help me, I accepted this rather than the frustration and problems of a legal battle with someone who may not be in the UK for very long.

From all of this my advise is:

  • If you’re having any treatment done, and you think you’re an NHS patient – make sure that that is the case
  • Any extended treatment – don’t do with a locum who may go tomorrow.
  • If go private – make sure got plenty of cover, after that you get what you pay for. The endo-dentist was very good, but very expensive.