Dentist dropped drill burr in mouth

matt_matt_ Forumite
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First Post
MoneySaving Newbie
Hi,
Hope I've posted this in the correct section - please move the thread/chastise me if not.

I've seen my NHS dentist four times between now and early October for a root canal on a molar. No big deal, Covid and emergencies no doubt cause delays here. I'll be having a crown fitted, and yesterday was the prep for that. During the work, the dentist dropped the drill burr into my mouth toward the back of my throat - and understandably that freaked me out a bit! I semi-gagged it back up, not realising what it was (I thought it was a piece of tooth or similar) but upon spitting it out I was a bit horrified! My dentist was shaken and visibly shaking a little during the rest of the procedure, which didn't exactly fill me with confidence...

I have no doubt these things happen on the rare occasion and please be assured that I'm not asking if I can take the dentist to court for damages or anything along those lines - my question is: should I be concerned about this event? Is it worth me flagging it up with somebody? Despite the financial outlay, would it be better that the remaining work is completed privately?

I'd really appreciate any input from those knowledgeable. Thank you!
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Replies

  • brook2jack2brook2jack2 Forumite
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    Any procedure , however easy or complicated , done by any dentist , however experienced, can have things go awry. 
    They are working in a tiny space , with tiny tools , and doing microsurgery on a conscious patient. 
    A drill burr can come out , you would not often do a crown preparation under rubber dam so if it comes out it will go into your mouth. This is no different from a piece of filling or tooth not being sucked up. It happens , you spat it out , it is not negligence or an event that needs reporting it is something that can happen .
  • edited 21 January at 12:41PM
    UndervaluedUndervalued Forumite
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    edited 21 January at 12:41PM
    Any procedure , however easy or complicated , done by any dentist , however experienced, can have things go awry. 
    They are working in a tiny space , with tiny tools , and doing microsurgery on a conscious patient. 
    A drill burr can come out , you would not often do a crown preparation under rubber dam so if it comes out it will go into your mouth. This is no different from a piece of filling or tooth not being sucked up. It happens , you spat it out , it is not negligence or an event that needs reporting it is something that can happen .
    Equally some people (even professionals) will take more care than others. Some will have more up to date equipment maintained to a higher standard. Some will be more prone to letting "life issues" affect their concentration at work.

    Yes, genuine accidents can happen even to the most careful and conscientious people but they happen far more to those that are less diligent.

    Most likely this dentist was one of the good guys and this was a next to unavoidable accident. However I don't see how you can say that for 100% certain about somebody you have (presumably) never met?
  • ToothsmithToothsmith Forumite
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    Exactly what Brook says. Stuff happens. No harm done. But yes - it would shake both dentist & patient up a bit.

    It could have cut you, you could have swallowed it. Worst case scenario you could have inhaled it. Had you inhaled it, it would have required an operation to remove it, which wouldn't have been nice - but even then, although that would have been a 'significant incident', it would not have been negligent. Just 'one of those things'. Very rare, but occasionally happen. The important thing then would have been how the dentist dealt with it. So long as you were informed, and promptly referred for an X-ray and onwards to someone who could deal with it, the dentist would have acted perfectly correctly.

    So that is why something like that would shake the dentist up a bit. It was fine, but worse stuff could have happened.

    Dental practices do keep 'significant incident' records. This episode wouldn't require entering into it, as no harm resulted. As Brook said, it is no more likely that this would have harmed you any more than a chip of tooth or filling falling into your mouth whilst working on the tooth.
    How to find a dentist.
    1. Get recommendations from friends/family/neighbours/etc.
    2. Once you have a short-list, VISIT the practices - dont just phone. Go on the pretext of getting a Practice Leaflet.
    3. Assess the helpfulness of the staff and the level of the facilities.
    4. Only book initial appointment when you find a place you are happy with.
  • fred246fred246 Forumite
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    I like the private bit. If I pay you more can you promise not to have any little accidents? I am sorry but whatever you pay little insignificant accidents are going to happen sometimes.
  • edited 21 January at 7:58PM
    Morrigan_2020Morrigan_2020 Forumite
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    edited 21 January at 7:58PM


    Dental practices do keep 'significant incident' records. This episode wouldn't require entering into it, as no harm resulted. 
    Its good practice to record near misses and no harm incidents too. 
  • ToothsmithToothsmith Forumite
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    Dental practices do keep 'significant incident' records. This episode wouldn't require entering into it, as no harm resulted. 
    Its good practice to record near misses and no harm incidents too. 
    That's true. It would flag up if one practitioner was recording more than others in the practice - but then that could be down to more conscientious reporting? 
    How to find a dentist.
    1. Get recommendations from friends/family/neighbours/etc.
    2. Once you have a short-list, VISIT the practices - dont just phone. Go on the pretext of getting a Practice Leaflet.
    3. Assess the helpfulness of the staff and the level of the facilities.
    4. Only book initial appointment when you find a place you are happy with.
  • Morrigan_2020Morrigan_2020 Forumite
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    Dental practices do keep 'significant incident' records. This episode wouldn't require entering into it, as no harm resulted. 
    Its good practice to record near misses and no harm incidents too. 
    That's true. It would flag up if one practitioner was recording more than others in the practice - but then that could be down to more conscientious reporting? 
    Its also a good way to prevent near misses become incidents next time.
  • edited 23 January at 11:25AM
    EmmiaEmmia Forumite
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    edited 23 January at 11:25AM
    Doesn't it depend on why the burr dropped into the mouth - was it perhaps not as tightly fitted as it could have been? That should be recorded as a near miss/minor incident as arguably that type of cause could have been avoided.
  • fred246fred246 Forumite
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    It probably fell in the mouth because that's where the teeth are normally found. It happens quite often with my Black & Decker. It doesn't normally fall in my mouth because I don't drill in there. I just have to put it back in and tighten the chuck again. Never bother with any paperwork.
  • matt_matt_ Forumite
    2 Posts
    First Post
    MoneySaving Newbie
    Hi all,

    Apologies for the huge delay in response and for reviving an old thread.

    Just wanted to come back and thank you for your insight into what's accepted risk and the questions to be asked around that. It has been invaluable information over the past few months.

    After three further treatments without resolution of the original issue, the dentist in question is no longer at the practice.

    Can a moderator please lock this thread? Thank you.
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