How to Find and Instruct a Dental Expert

By Dr Antony Visocchi and Dr Lucy Nichols

Dental experts play a big role in Dental-related Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury claims. Experts are relied upon by judges and lawyers as to whether the claimant has a valid claim or not.

Therefore, we asked 2 dental experts – Dr Antony Visocchi and Dr Lucy Nichols – to give their advice to solicitors on:

  • What qualities to look out for in a dental expert
  • How to instruct a dental expert for their case
  • How to work with a dental expert

What Qualities To Look For In A Dental Expert

There are 4 key factors to consider when looking for a nomination for a Dental Expert:

  1. Have they been working in the Dental field for at least 10-12 years?
  2. Are they still working in the profession at some level?
  3. Do they specialise in the same domain that the case relates to?
  4. Do they have appropriate training and memberships to nationally recognised organisations and directories?

If you’ve found a dental expert that ticks these four boxes, then the next step is to instruct them.

An 8-Step Checklist For Instructing A Dental Expert

In order to instruct a dental expert, you’ll need to compile a bundle of documents including medical and/or dental records

Giving a complete set of documents to your dental expert from the beginning will save you a lot of time and money on your case.

If the expert starts working on your case and realises part way through that they don’t have everything they need, this will inevitably result in delays in writing their report and potentially higher fees if they need to spend more time refreshing their memory on the case.

Here is an 8-step checklist to go over before you send all the documentation to your dental expert before they begin work on your claim.

  1. Have you given clear instructions and the claimant’s position?
    It’s essential you provide your dental expert with your requirements as well as the case details and your claimant’s position. Failure to do so and you may receive an inadequate report that doesn’t help your case.

  2. Are all the documents relevant to your case?
    Don’t provide your dental expert with irrelevant medical records that have nothing to do with your case. This will only slow them down if they have to go through all the documents to decide what is and isn’t relevant.

  3. Have you provided high-quality images?
    All images, for example, radiographs, must be of diagnostic quality and not poor-quality photocopies. Ideally, they should be in digital format. Extremely good hard copy reproductions can be acceptable but rarely will suffice alone.

  4. Have you dated all the images?
    This is the number one irritation for dental experts when they receive a bundle. It’s not enough to label images in chronological order. You must make sure that each individual image has the correct date of when they were taken.

  5. Are the files in the correct format?
    Check with your expert if they prefer a hard copy bundle or an electronic one.
    Don’t use uncommon digital file formats that a dental expert will struggle to open. And remember, not all laptops are compatible with CD-ROMS and USB sticks.

  6. Have you included all the dental notes?
    When you request notes from a dental practice ask for: clinical notes from each appointment date, radiographs, photos taken, correspondence, consent forms and any other documentation they have. If your claim relates to periodontal disease make sure to request all BPE scores (gum disease screening scores) and all full periodontal chartings. These are often in a separate part of the dental software system and may be missed if the main body of the notes is simply printed. This can lead to an assumption that they have not been done when in fact they were.

  7. Do you need to do a clinical examination?
    In many dental cases, a clinical examination will not add information that can be gained from the documentation. So ask your expert first before you arrange a clinical examination for your claimant to avoid delaying the final report and adding costs to your expert’s fee.

  8. Have you provided all the records?
    All relevant records need to be provided; before, during and after the incident, as well as the details of the reason for raising an action. Notes from a previous treating dentist are very often important in order to ascertain the status of a tooth or teeth prior to any alleged negligence, or prior to any accident.

How To Work With A Dental Expert

When you’ve decided to formally instruct a dental expert there are 2 things to be aware of that can make or break a relationship:

  • Clear communication: Keep your expert updated and send all details and documentation quickly so they can begin work. Don’t just dump documents on your expert without prior warning.
  • Delaying payments: Experts are contracted by the instructing solicitor and not the solicitor’s’ client. Therefore, the terms and conditions of your expert should be abided by regardless of when case is settled.

How Inneg Can Support You With Your Dental-Related Claims

Inneg has 184 dentists in our expert panel including Dr Visocchi and Dr Nichols. We cover specialist dental areas such as Periodontal, Orthodontics, Aesthetics, Endodontics, and Restorative Dentistry.

Inneg can support your case by:
➔ Finding the right expert for your case.
➔ Request all the records for you.
➔ Paginate and advise on what’s missing.
➔ Digitise all the imaging if required.
➔ Liaise with the expert to ensure SLAs and timings are met efficiently.
➔ Provide an extended credit facility for your dental expert reports.

About the Authors

Dr Visocchi, BDS, MFDS RCS Ed, MJDF RCS Eng, FDS RCPS Glas, FCGDent, AFHEA, PG Dip Med Law is the Director of Dentistry at NHS, Shetland. He specialises in emergency care, general dentistry, and periodontal care. He is on the list of advisors and experts for the GDC Fitness to Practice panel and on the list of approved experts for Dental Protection and the Dental Defence Union.

He has been doing medico-legal work for over 9 years and has a Claimant/Defendant ratio of 70:30. He also has training in courtroom skills.

Dr Nichols, BDS MFDSRCPS MSc FCGDent is a Consultant in Dental Surgery. She specialises in general dentistry, Invisalign treatment and dental implants.

She has been doing medico-legal work for 8 years and has a Claimant/Defendant ratio of 40:60.

Want to Discuss Your Clinical Negligence Claim with Dr Vissochi or Dr Nichols?

If you’d like to discuss your Clinical Negligence case with Dr Nichols or Dr Visocchi, or you wish to tap into the Inneg Dental Panel you can contact them and us by clicking on the button below.

Inneg Dental Panel