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Friday 19 July 2019

Woman gets €88k after dentist cut her tongue while repairing a filling

Ms O’Brien was left with pain in her tongue for a week. Stock image
Ms O’Brien was left with pain in her tongue for a week. Stock image

A woman with a dental phobia has been awarded more than €88,000 after a dentist lacerated her tongue as she repaired a filling.

Mother-of-five Mairead Molly O'Brien has been left with a 2cm square area of nerve damage and a burning, tingling sensation, the High Court was told.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr said it appears Ms O'Brien will have to learn to live with the sensation for the rest of her life.

In particular, he said Ms O'Brien (37) now finds kissing "somewhat unpleasant".

Mr Justice Barr said Ms O'Brien suffered a painful and frightening experience as a result of the treatment in April 2016.

Ms O'Brien suffered a deep laceration when one of the instruments being used by the dentist - most probably a polishing disc - came into contact with her tongue.

Ms O'Brien (37), of Rathkenny, Drangan, Thurles, Co Tipperary, had sued Mairead O'Connor, who at the time practised at Callan Dental Practice, Callan, Co Kilkenny.

Liability was accepted by the dentist, who sincerely apologised for the injury suffered and that her response to the injury caused Ms O'Brien upset.

Making the €88,357 award, Mr Justice Barr said Ms O'Brien also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which graduated into her present condition of a moderate adjustment disorder.

Mr Justice Barr said having listened to Ms O'Brien's evidence, and having had regard to the evidence of her doctors, and the documentary evidence in the case, he was 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," he said.

Sedation

The judge accepted that Ms O'Brien had a continuing dental phobia and would probably require sedation prior to receiving future dental treatment.

Ms O'Brien said she was in immediate excruciating pain after the incident and that there was a considerable amount of blood.

The judge said Ms O'Brien stated the dentist was "somewhat dismissive of the injury" and sutured the laceration under anaesthetic.

When the dentist was asked for an apology, the judge said it was proffered by the dentist and a suggestion was made at one stage that 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 and Ms O'Brien had to go to hospital where she was prescribed medication.

She later complained of severe pain in her tongue, which lasted just over a week.

The judge said regardless of the dentist's initial reaction, credit had to be given for the way in which both the dentist and the owner of the practice responded to the incident.

Ms O'Brien accepted in cross-examination that the dentist had tried to phone her when she was in A&E.

The owner of the dental practice and the dentist both wrote letters of apology to Ms O'Brien soon after the incident, the court was told.

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