“Doc, why do I need dental work if my teeth don’t hurt?!”

If I had to pick one question that I bet all questions have been asked, this might be it! This might sound counterintuitive, but if you have been told that you need fillings, etc. but you are not experiencing any pain, you are actually a lucky patient! Trust me on this one- here’ s why:

As a dentist, we get patients who come in for “emergency” appointments almost every day.  These patients usually are in extreme pain, and maybe even have a facial swelling of some sort from their dental infection! The patient that comes in with severe pain, or even moderate pain, is the patient who has waited too long.

When a tooth is becoming uncomfortable, the cavity has reached into either the second or third layer of the tooth- and now needs either a root canal or must be pulled!

Why can’t they just be filled, you ask? Fillings are used to fix cavities that are either in the enamel (outer layer of the tooth) or partially into the dentin (the second layer of the tooth).  Once the cavity has reached the nerve, the tooth is infected and a filling will no longer be sufficient to fix the problem.

So, in a nutshell, when my patients ask me this question I basically tell them “If you wait until your teeth hurt, then it’s too late- you will need either a root canal or an extraction and I want to prevent you from needing either of those!” Then the light bulb goes off and it all makes sense to them.  That’s the reason your dentist is always bugging you to come in and get regular cleanings, exams, and x-rays… so that we can catch things early- before they turn into major dental work like root canals/ extractions!  I get the following reaction at that point: “Oh! So that means I should get these fillings done before they start hurting? I get it now!” And that is when I feel my work has been accomplished.

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