THE DENTAL COMPLAINTS Resolution Service received 130 complaints about Irish dentists last year.
In its annual report, the DCRS said it resolved 28 of the complaints before the end of last year, while another 16 are close to resolution or have been resolved in 2014.
There are still 102 outstanding cases, some of which will not be resolved as the complainant has decided to take legal proceedings.
Of the complaints that were resolved, one saw a woman receive a €40,000 settlement from her dentist.
The patient had seen her dentist for regular appointments every six months for years. However, on visiting a different practice, she discovered her “gums were not in a fit state”.
According to the head of the resolution service, Michael Kilcoyne, the patient was “shocked that after attending a dentist every six months for most of her life, she had now found herself in this mess”.
She had to visit a periodontist and a specialist and the payments were mounting up. She also suffered “pain and stress” and was not “not able to chew anything hard”.
The patient never heard back the dentist after making the initial complaint so approached the DCRS, which began to liaise with him on her behalf.
After some exchange, the dentist agreed to pay the patient €40,000 to cover the cost of treating her teeth. The amount included €27,900 for the cost of implants, treatment and gum tissue, €5,100 to refund the cost of treatments already paid out and €7,000 to cover the cost of check-ups over the next 12 years.
Kilcoyne said the situation could have been “resolved more easily” if the dentist had dealt with the mistake.
“There is no crime in making a mistake,” he said in his report. “And there is no crime in rectifying that mistake.”
The DCRS is an opt-in service provided by the Irish Dental Association which offers an independent and free mediator service to patients who have complaints about their dentists.
It said that most of the resolutions involved a refund of fees, an apology or retreatment at no extra cost.
The service said it will be unable to resolve a dozen or so cases and these are likely to be referred to solicitors. It rejected six complaints because two were anonymous and four originated outside the Republic of Ireland.
Commenting on its second annual report, Kilcoyne said: “It is heartening to see the growing acceptance of the Service. Overall we received over 1,200 emails and letters and more than 262 phone calls. While this may seem a lot it should be remembered that two million Irish people visit their dentist every year.
“Communication failures remain the main cause of disputes. If the patient and dentist communicated clearly with each other about an issue it would reduce the amount of complaints made by about 40 per cent.
“Dentists need to keep patients informed of the treatment plan and to deal with complaints promptly. Some of the most difficult cases that can arise involve veneers crowns and bridges.”