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What can I do if I receive substandard dental treatment in France?

If your dentist fits you with a bad crown or filling or provides work that is not up to standard, there are different options for claiming reimbursement or a correction

Dentists in France have a duty of care to provide you with the best treatment they are capable of Pic: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

Reader Question: I have received substandard dental treatment. Is there any organisation I can contact to request a refund of the money paid? The dentist has now moved away and I have to get the work done again. 

All dentists in France have a duty of care, meaning that they are obliged to provide a reasonable standard of treatment. They do not necessarily have to cure or solve your problems (it may not be possible) but they have to do all they can to treat you correctly. 

If you have received substandard treatment, your dentist is obliged to try to rectify the situation. 

So, the first option you should try is returning to your dentist and asking them to fix whatever issue you have. 

This is obviously trickier in the case of our reader as their dentist has moved away. Another complicated situation is if a dentist refuses to treat you as they do not take responsibility for the issue. 

There are different options you can try in this case. 

Proving the poor treatment

You are responsible for proving that the treatment given to you by your dentist is not of a sufficient standard. 

If, as is the case of our reader, the dentist has moved away and so cannot treat you, or in another scenario the dentist refuses to take responsibility for an error, you need to gather proof of inadequate treatment in order to claim compensation. 

This is not necessarily limited to a refund, but can potentially include other costs such as lost income if you were unable to work, and possibly compensation for physical suffering resulting from poorly-done work, or distress from harm to the appearance of the teeth.

The first step towards this is to ask your dentist for your medical file (dossier médical). The most official way to do this is by sending them a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception). 

You can also ask by email, phone call or in person but the registered letter could be useful if the case goes to court. 

Your dentist has eight days to send you your medical record. 

The next step is to seek the advice of an independent expert dentist (médecin expert indépendant or médecin conseil de victimes) who will be able to give you a check-up and a statement that the work carried out by your dentist was not up to a reasonable standard. 

You will have to pay for this service but may be able to use a legal guarantee written into a health or home insurance contract called a garantie protection juridique – we explain more about this later in the article. 

There are various associations offering independent expert doctors or dentists, such as the Association Aide Indemnisation Victimes de France. You can find the contact details of their expert dentists here

Another option to obtain an assessment of your situation, and potential help, is to apply to the Commission régionale de conciliation et d'indemnisation des accidents médicaux, a body which can potentially help to find a solution between you and the dentist. Note that in some cases compensation may also be possible from a public body called Oniam where something has gone wrong and caused you harm but it cannot be proved that the dentist was at fault.

With your evidence you can return to your dentist and ask them for reimbursement/compensation or to correct any errors they have made. 

Dentists may claim on their own professional insurance in the case of a compensation claim, in which case it is possible the insurance company might want to instruct their own expert to examine you.

If no compensation is offered, or you are offered a sum that you consider too low, then your final recourse is legal action in the tribunal judiciaire. For this, you will need representation by an avocat (lawyer).

Garantie protection juridique

You may have something called a garantie protection juridique or garantie défense-recours as part of a health insurance, home insurance or another type of insurance contract. This places an obligation on insurers to carry out legal formalities on your behalf. 

However, this will only cover you for legal issues that are set out in the contract and linked to the specific type of insurance. For example, if you have this type of guarantee as part of your car insurance then it will most likely only cover you for car-related matters and not for a dispute with a neighbour or a dental complaint, for example. 

If you happen to have an insurance that has a garantie protection juridique that covers medical and/or dental matters, your insurer will contact the dentist or even the dentist's professional liability insurance for you. If this does not lead to an agreement, legal proceedings may be envisaged. 

In this case your insurer will represent you in court. If you wish, they will also suggest a lawyer for you. 

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