A WOMAN with a dental phobia who suffered a deep laceration to her tongue as a dentist repaired a filling has been awarded just over €88,000 by the High Court.
Mother-of-five, Mairead Molly O’Brien has been left with a 2cm squared patch of nerve damage and a burning, tingling sensation, which Mr Justice Anthony Barr said appears she will have to learn to live with for the rest of her life.
In particular, the judge said the Tipperary woman finds kissing “somewhat unpleasant.”
Mr Justice Barr said the Ms O’Brien suffered a very painful and frightening experience as a result of the treatment which she received in April 2016.
She suffered a deep laceration when one of the instruments, most probably a polishing disc came into contact with her tongue.
Mairead Molly O’Brien (37), of Rathkenny, Drangan, Thurles, Co Tipperary, had sued dental surgeon Mairead O’Connor, who at the time practised at Callan Dental Practice, Co Kilkenny. Liability was accepted by the dentist, who issued a formal letter of apology in which she sincerely apologised for the injury suffered and that her response to the injury caused Ms O’Brien upset.
Making the award totalling €88,357, Mr Justice Barr said Ms O’Brien also suffered psychiatric sequelae in the form of PTSD graduating to her present condition of a moderate adjustment disorder.
Mr Justice Barr said having watched and listened carefully to Ms O’Brien give her evidence and having had regard to the evidence of her treating doctors and the documentary evidence in the case, he was entirely satisfied she had given a truthful account of her injuries and of her recovery to date.
“I am satisfied she has not in any way tried to exaggerate either her initial symptoms or her continuing difficulties,” the judge said.
The judge accepted Ms O’Brien has a continuing dental phobia and in an assessment as to whether she would be a person who would require sedation prior to receiving dental treatment she achieved a very high score.
Mr Justice Barr said in evidence that Ms O’Brien said she was in immediate excruciating pain after the incident and there was a considerable amount of blood. Ms O’Brien, the judge said, stated the dentist was “somewhat dismissive of the injury” and sutured the laceration under anaesthetic.
When asked for an apology the judge said it was prof erred by the dentist and a suggestion was made at one stage Ms O’Brien should suck on a piece of ice and that would relieve her pain “and keep her quiet”.
As the anaesthetic wore off the pain became more severe she later had to go to hospital and was prescribed medication. She later complained of severe pain in her tongue, which lasted just over a week.
The woman, Mr Justice Barr said felt particularly aggrieved by the fact that no apology was forthcoming immediately after the incident until she specifically asked the dentist for one and that overall at the time she felt her treatment by the dentist made her feel very belittled.
The judge said whatever about the initial reaction by the dentist, credit has to be given for the way in which both the dentist and the owner of the dental practice subsequently reacted to the incident and Ms O Brien accepted in cross examination the dentist had tried to phone her when she was in A&E.
The owner of the dental practice and the dentist on different days in April 2016 also wrote letters of apology to Ms O’Brien.
“It is only fair to point out that both the dentist and the owner of the dental practice apologised and accepted responsibility for what happened to Ms O’Brien,” the judge said.
He said these actions showed both a compassion towards Ms O’Brien and her welfare and were in accordance with best medical practice in relation to how medical professionals should deal with things that go wrong in the course of treatment given by them.