Never events: Improving patient safety at the dentist

Date: May 15, 2018

A trip to the dentist is a common source of anxiety for many. In an effort to reduce dentist negligence, ensuring better patient care and comfort, dental experts from around the world have published a definitive list of situations that should never happen.

This is the first international agreement in dentistry and an easy reference point for patients should they think they haven’t received proper treatment.

The need to establish these guidelines

The guidelines that experts have constructed are referred to as ‘never events’. Established never events are common in other areas of medicine, however, less-so in dentistry. According to Professor Aziz Sheikh from the University of Edinburgh, this is an important set of guidelines that will help to better regulate dentist practices around the world, including Australia.

The need for these guidelines is paramount as there have been numerous cases involving a situation in which a dentist has operated on a patient, only to remove the wrong tooth. Botching a surgery like this isn’t just a nuisance for the patient, it can also induce psychological and emotional damage.

The wrong extraction can take several months to heal and require a second surgery to perform the procedure correctly, creating an unnecessary expense for the patient.

Safety guidelines: Never events

For reference, here is a list of mistakes primary care dentists should never make:

  • Treating the wrong patient;
  • Prescribing incorrect medication to children;
  • Not including a routine screening for oral cancer;
  • Failing to refer for oral cancer assessment if lesions don’t heal after treatment;
  • Extracting the wrong tooth;
  • Breaking the patient’s jaw;
  • Not using appropriate eye protection on the patient, injuring their eye;
  • Using the wrong anaesthetic;
  • Failing to sterilise instruments;
  • Reusing disposable items instead of disposing of them;
  • Failing to record patient’s history of medication allergies;
  • Using dental material on a patient with known history of allergies to said dental material;
  • Prescribing a drug to a patient with a known allergy to the drug;
  • The patient inhales a ‘foreign object’;
  • Leaving a ‘foreign object’ in a patent after operating on them.

If you have experienced any of these never events, please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation to find out whether you are entitled to a medical negligence claim.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.