Dentist suspended and fined for treatment that left patient worse off than before

SINGAPORE - A general dentist who practised beyond his ability and left the patient worse off than before treatment has been suspended three months, fined $15,000 and prohibited from offering orthodontic services for two years.

The Singapore Dental Council (SDC) said in a press release on Thursday (Oct 19) that Dr Simon Jude Chua Chew Kiat, who practises at Advanced Dental Surgery in Tampines, had offered the patient three treatment plans to choose from.

The plan that the patient opted for should never have been offered, said the SDC's disciplinary committee. As a result of that treatment over a one year period, the disciplinary committee said the patient will now need to extract the affected tooth.

It said in its grounds of decision: "This is necessary since the tooth was moved out of the bone. Furthermore, it is now necessary to remove a few other teeth to provide a reasonable treatment outcome. There is also a possibility that the patient may require a jaw surgery."

The committee added: "The patient is left worse off than before his treatment started. He has now lost the bone support for the canine and his arch asymmetry has worsened."

Dr Chua, who had been dental officer-in-charge, Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic, National Healthcare Group Polyclinics (NHGP) before he left for private practice in 2012, admitted that this was the first time he had attempted the procedure.

There is nothing to stop a dentist from doing any procedure, but he should be competent at it. The disciplinary committee said that there was "obvious lack of expertise" in this case, and Dr Chua should have referred the patient to a an orthodontic specialist. This option was not offered to the patient.

The committee felt that the penalty should be heavy enough "to deter like-minded persons" from carrying out treatment beyond their competency. Because he had gained financially from treating the patient over one year, a fine was also appropriate.

The disciplinary committee said it would have been suspended Dr Chua for six months, if not for the delay in hearing his case.

Taking a cue from the High Court which halved the suspension for cancer doctor Ang Peng Tiam in June this year (2017) due to the four years it took for a decision to be made, the disciplinary committee halved the suspension for Dr Chua to reflect the two years for this case to be concluded.

Correction note: The article has been edited to correct the former designation of Dr Simon Jude Chua Chew Kiat when he was with the NHGP. We are sorry for the error.