Dental damage is one of the most common incidents reported by Anaesthetists in Australia. Using the best Intubation technique and the provision of clear warnings about the possibility of dental damage, does not necessarily prevent patients from making a complaint and/or seeking compensation in the event of sustaining a dental injury (chipped tooth, gum infection, etc).

At Tego, we want our anaesthetists to know the most important issues when it comes to dental damage so you can protect yourself against potential claims. Here are some precautions you can consider.

Duty to warn

Anaesthetists have an obligation to inform patients of the potential for dental damage as part of the general duty to inform on the risks associated with anaesthesia. Some suggested inclusions to consider during this discussion include the following:

  • Underlying dental conditions
  • Previous dental restorative work
  • Previous trauma
  • Loose teeth
  • Veneers and dentures or plates.

Discussion

Clearly explain the risks of damage occurring. 

Where possible, consider your options for airway management equipment prior to the procedure and discuss the benefits and risks of each, remembering to document the same.  

Depending upon the time of the consultation and the clinical urgency for the proposed procedure, it may be possible to discuss the benefits of deferring treatment until dental work is carried out, to avoid the risk of damage.

Documentation

Careful documentation of pre-existing dental conditions identified during the pre-operative discussion and examination should be made in the health record. 

On occasions where anaesthetic devices are going to be removed by other health care providers, such as recovery staff, you should hand over your concern for the heightened risk of dental damage and include a note in the medical records to ensure continuity of care.

If Damage Occurs

In the event of dental damage the following steps are recommended:  

  • Contact your medical indemnity insurer for advice and guidance in dealing with and responding to any potential claims that may arise. 
  • Where possible, keep any teeth or their remnants in saline in case it is possible to repair them.
  • Appropriate documentation of the incident, if recognised at the time, including the steps taken to minimise any damage.   
  • Talk to the patient as soon as possible after the procedure and explain what happened.
  • Make an appropriate expression of regret.
  • If the patient requests payment for correction of the damage, contact your medical indemnity insurer before agreeing to anything. 

Protecting You and Your Practice – Tego 

As medical indemnity insurance providers in Australia, we will cover your practice with medical indemnity insurance, medical malpractice insurance, doctors indemnity insurance, medical practice insurance, gp medical indemnity insurance, and more. If you are a health practitioner with Tego, your medical indemnity insurance comes with 24/7 medico-legal advice and support to guide you through risks associated with anaesthesia.

This publication is general in nature and is not comprehensive or constitutes legal or medical advice. You should seek legal, medical or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Tego Insurance Pty Ltd is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss su­ffered in connection with the use of this information.