What should a dentist do if an instrument breaks during treatment?

In a recent decision, the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (the Board) affirmed the obligations of a dentist when a surgical instrument broke during treatment.

A patient had four wisdom teeth removed in 2009. Several years later in 2016, after experiencing pain, a different oral surgeon removed a surgical bur (an item used in oral surgery) from her mouth. Despite the patient not having any other dental work completed since 2009, the dentist refused to take responsibility for the surgical bur. He did, however, admit that there was a power failure during the removal of the patient’s wisdom teeth and that it was possible that a bur broke. A subsequent radiograph revealed a radiopaque marking (i.e. something showing up on the radiograph), but the dentist asserted that it could have been the patient’s earring. He also took the position that there was no indication that the bur caused the patient any problems. He further argued that the type of bur that was found was not one that he used.

The Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (the Committee) decided to require the dentist to complete a SCERP (a Specified Continuing Educational or Remediation Program) in record keeping and informed consent (as no signed consent form was present) and required the dentist to attend to be cautioned.

The dentist sought a review of the decision by the Board.

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