If a filling falls out, does the dentist have to replace it for free?

Question Details: About a year ago I received a few fillings. Since then, two have fallen out. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act does the dentist have to replace them at their own cost?

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Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

Your dentist may have to replace the fillings for free, or pay for the cost of you getting another dentist to replace the fillings, if you can prove that your dentist did not take reasonable care and skill when doing your fillings. However, unless another dentist says there is something wrong with the first dentist's work, this may be hard to prove.

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, a service provider (like a dentist) must take reasonable care and skill when providing a service. In your case, if the dentist has not taken reasonable care and skill in providing the filling, you should give the dentist the opportunity to fix the filling. This should be done at no cost to you. If the dentist refuses or takes more than a reasonable time to fix the filling, or the problem is not fixed, you could get another dentist to fix it and you could claim the cost from the first dentist. Or you may be able to get some or all of your money back.

More information about the process you should follow is available from page 17 of this guide onwards: www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz.

If the dentist doesn't agree, you can make a claim in the Disputes Tribunal. The Disputes Tribunal is relatively inexpensive, and you do not need a lawyer. Further information about the Disputes Tribunal process is available here: www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz. Be aware though that it may be difficult to prove that the dentist has not taken reasonable care and skill, as fillings could fall out for a number of reasons other than a lack of care taken by the dentist. Any paperwork or other information you have about the dentist's work may be useful (such as another dentist's opinion). It is also advisable that you check any receipt or information that you were given by the dentist for any disclaimers of liability or guarantees of their work (however, you still have the Consumer Guarantees Act rights explained above no matter what any disclaimer says).

You also have the option of making a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner on the basis that your right to have services provided with enough reasonable care and skill to meet all relevant standards has been breached. For more information on how to make a complaint, see this website: www.cab.org.nz.

Answered 7 Oct 2013. The IMPORTANT NOTICE below is part of this answer.

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