Dentist fails to provide information on the risks of
root canal treatment
Deputy Health and Disability
Commissioner Kevin Allan today released a report finding a
dentist in breach of the Code of Health and Disability
Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code) for failures in
their care of a woman who needed root canal
The woman first attended the dental clinic
in October 2019 with a throbbing toothache and was seen by
the dentist. It was agreed the woman required root canal
treatment, but the dentist did not explain the risks
associated with the treatment.
When returning to the
dentist for the procedure. The dentist struggled to find the
canals and continued drilling. A significant amount of the
tooth was removed and a file broke in the tooth.
dentist referred the woman to a senior colleague at the same
clinic. An appointment was made and the woman attended the
clinic while suffering ongoing pain. The senior colleague
was unable to remove the broken file, and referred the woman
to an endodontist.
The endodontist discovered a
perforation of the nerve chamber, causing the woman’s
significant pain. The endodontist bypassed the broken file
and completed the root canal treatment, easing the woman’s
The Deputy Commissioner considered that the
dentist did not advise the woman about the risks and
possible consequences of root canal treatment prior to the
procedure. As a result the woman was unable to make informed
choices about her treatment.
Mr Allan was also
critical of the dentist for continuing to drill the affected
tooth and failing to refer the woman for specialist
“The dentist saw this woman on three occasions
for root canal treatment. During the treatment a number of
complications occurred, which caused pain and suffering to
this woman,” said Mr Allan.
“I accept that prior to
the treatment the dentist discussed two options (root canal
and removal of tooth) and the benefits of each option.
However, this does not meet the requirements of the Code in
relation to provision of information and informed choice.
The dentist should have explained the risks of each option
“When the dentist was unable to locate the
root canals, and made the decision to continue drilling, he
should have proceeded with caution. Had he stopped drilling
and obtained advice, the prognosis for the tooth may have
been more positive. I am critical that the dentist continued
drilling and failed to refer the woman for specialist
The dentist has now provided HDC with
evidence that he has participated in training relevant to
informed consent and endodontic care, and has provided the
woman with an apology.
The full report of case
20HDC00140 is available on the