How can I complain about a dentist?

If you've had poor treatment from an NHS or private dentist, there are many organisations that can help you seek resolution. We give you the lowdown.

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1 Complain to your dentist 

If you want to complain about poor treatment, the first step is to raise the matter either in person, or by letter with your dentist or practice manager. They may be able to sort it out there and then.

If you're receiving dental treatment on the NHS

If an informal approach doesn't work, ask for a copy of the NHS complaints procedure. Every NHS dental practice must have one. 

You can get help from an NHS Complaints Advocate to support your formal complaint. Contact your local Healthwatch to find out who provides Independent Health Complaints Advocacy near you in England. 

If you would prefer not to complain directly to the dental practice, you can complain to the NHS in your region.

If you're receiving private dental treatment  

The easiest way to resolve the issue would be to contact the practice, who may be able to resolve this with you straight away.

A private dentist should have their own complaints procedure, so if you're not satisfied after an informal approach you can ask for the complaints procedure.

If you have made a formal complaint to the private dental practice and the issue has still not been resolved, you can contact the Dental Complaints Service (DCS) who can help resolve complaints about private dental treatment.

The DCS offers an impartial, free service to help private dental patients and dental professionals to resolve dental care complaints efficiently and fairly. 

If you are looking for an apology, a refund or contribution to the cost of further treatment, the DCS will be able to deal with your complaint. However, the DCS cannot deal with claims for compensation, or with complaints about dental plans. 

If the private treatment you received was though a dental plan, you will need to contact your plan provider who will have its own complaints process.

2 Complain to the ombudsman

If you have made a formal complaint to your NHS dental practice or the NHS in your region about dental treatment you received on the NHS and feel that it has not been resolved, you can refer the issue to the ombudsman for your region:

  • In England contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO)
  • In Scotland contact the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO)
  • In Wales contact the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales
  • In Northern Ireland contact the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO)

The ombudsman can act as an independent referee in complaints where administrative or service failures have occurred. 

Once the ombudsman has determined whether it can deal with your complaint, it will investigate the issue and provide you with a resolution within 12 months. 

The ombudsman makes the final decision on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in your region.

3 Raise concerns with the GDC

If the problem is so serious that you believe the dental professional could be a risk to other patients, you should contact the General Dental Council (GDC). All NHS and private dentists practicing in the UK should be registered with the GDC, as it regulates dental professionals across the UK. 

The GDC does not get involved in complaints that are being managed locally, does not resolve complaints and does not award compensation. 

You can visit their website if you want to report your dentist.

The GDC will take action if a dental professional's ability, behaviour or health means it's not suitable for them to continue working.  

Summary

  • If you've had poor dental treatment, you have the right to complain
  • You may be offered remedial treatment or a refund for the cost of your dental work
  • If you've lost confidence in your practitioner, or have experienced severe pain or loss of earning as a result of treatment, you may wish to make a personal injury claim

4 Raise concerns with the CQC

Private and NHS patients in England can also register feedback with the Care Quality Commission (CQC)

The CQC doesn't settle individual disputes, but your feedback will help it decide whether to investigate the dental practice in question.

5 File a personal injury claim

If you've had poor treatment from a private, or NHS dentist a final option may be to file a personal injury claim. This may be necessary if you require remedial work but have lost confidence in your dentist.

If you wish to use the small claims court to do this, it's worth noting that only £1000 can be claimed as personal injury. 

To claim more than this, you'll need to use the fast track court proceedings which can be costly and time consuming.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the small claims court cannot be used to claim personal injury compensation at all. 

If you're filing a personal injury claim in Scotland or Northern Ireland, contact a solicitor for advice on how to begin proceedings. 

Healthwatch England is an independent consumer champion that gathers and represents the public's view on health and social care in England. 

The organisation is made up of local branches across each of the 152 local authority areas in England. They have a useful online tool to help you find your local branch, which can provide information and signpost you to local advice services.

Citizens Advice also provides information and advice about making NHS dentist complaints. 

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