Medical Law Expert Warns Of Dangers Of ‘Hollywood Smile’
A West Midlands family, who have been left with decaying teeth and a lifetime of future dental work costing many thousands of pounds, have hit out at an unscrupulous dentist who profited from their misery by carrying out unnecessary dental veneers* on the NHS.
Dentist, Stuart Johnstone, who practised at the Crabtree Drive Dental Practice in Chelmsley Wood, Birmingham was struck off by the General Dental Council (GDC) for dishonestly carrying out dental veneers on patients - including children as young as seven – which were not in the patients’ best interests but were motivated by personal financial gain. Johnstone initially appealed the decision but earlier this year the GDC upheld their original ruling.
Now a medical law expert from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who specialises in negligent dental cases and is representing one of the families involved, says the profession needs to act to protect the public from unscrupulous dentists who put profit before patient welfare.
Leslie Tyrell (57), his wife Jacqueline (50) from Smiths Wood, Birmingham along with their two daughters Carrie and Corrine, who at the time were aged 14 and 15, were subjected to years of inappropriate dental treatment at the hands of Johnstone.
Their experiences are the subject of a documentary by Channel Four’s Dispatches programme which airs on Monday 23rd May at 8.00pm and investigates how unscrupulous NHS dentists can exploit the system.
The Tyrell family were all advised by dentist, Stuart Johnstone that their teeth would benefit from dental veneers – thin pieces of tooth-coloured material which are adhered to the tooth after the surface of the original tooth is etched away.
However, the pros and cons of the treatment were never properly explained to them. The family were not told that porcelain veneers are irreversible or that they normally need replacing every five to ten years. The decision to provide dental veneers to the Tyrell’s two daughters was not discussed with their parents before being carried out.
Both children would normally be considered too young for cosmetic dental veneers, which were recommended without the advice of a specialist being obtained first.
The family are also concerned that Johnstone’s treatment focused on providing veneers and cosmetic work, whilst their more urgent and basic dental needs were overlooked.
Jennifer Emerson, a solicitor with Irwin Mitchell who represents the Tyrell family and is now taking civil action on their behalf, said: “This is a shocking example of a dentist putting personal gain before the welfare of his patients. Johnstone used every trick in the book to ensure that the dental charges he was able to claim back from the NHS were maximised. At times the treatment was woefully inappropriate and amounted to negligence of the worst kind.
“At the GDC hearing it was accepted by the professional conduct committee that dental veneers should only ever be applied to children under 16 years old in rare and extreme circumstances and, even then, only with specialist advice. The children he treated certainly did not fall into this category. They now face a lifetime of dental work which will never be able to restore them to their original condition.”
At the conclusion of the hearing, the GDC committee issued a damning indictment of Johnstone’s behaviour, they said: “You subjected patients, most of whom were children, to treatment knowing it to have been inappropriate, with the primary motivation of your own financial gain. You thereby neglected the dental interests of these patients and failed to provide them with the treatment they needed. You did so in order to obtain fees leading to a greater profit from the NHS than the fees you would have received for appropriate treatment.
The committee found that in some of the cases before it, the primary motivation for the provision of porcelain veneers was financial gain and that Mr Johnstone had been dishonest.
Mr Tyrell commented: “We never asked for dental veneers. During a routine visit for a check up, Johnstone recommended the treatment. He said he could carry it out on the NHS and that it would be a good thing for us to have. The risks associated with veneers certainly weren’t explained to us.
“Like many families, we put our trust in our dentist, believing that he had our best interests at heart. Instead he fleeced the NHS and left us with decaying teeth and dental problems, which will stay with us for the rest of our lives.”
Jennifer Emerson added: “TV makeover programmes and the latest trend to have a ‘Hollywood smile’ have meant that dental veneers are currently very much in vogue. However, people need to realise that not everyone is a suitable candidate.
“Many patients are not properly counselled regarding the risks involved in the procedure and are not told that this is not a permanent ‘fix’ but will need further treatments in the future. Veneers cannot simply be removed like false finger nails because the preparatory work leaves the original tooth surface permanently altered.
“Anyone considering veneer work should check that the dentist explains the pros and cons of the procedure, confirms it is suitable for them and should consider seeking a second opinion before giving consent. The NHS also needs to learn important lessons and improve the way it polices dentists’ claims to ensure that rogue practitioners like Johnstone are not allowed to put profit before patient welfare.
“The Government is currently reviewing dental contracts and we hope that this review will lead to dentists being able to spend more time with patients, provide more focus on preventative dentistry and put in place better safeguards to identify rogue dentists much earlier.”
If you have suffered as a result of dental negligence, our medical negligence claims team could help you to secure compensation. View our Dental Negligence Claims page for more information.
Notes to editors:
* Dental veneers – a thin layer of restorative material placed over a tooth surface, either to improve the aesthetics of a tooth, or to protect a damaged tooth surface,