But it Doesn't Hurt
When a cavity or other dental need is diagnosed, a common refrain is “But it doesn’t hurt”. Dental disease and infection begin before any symptoms are present. These problems can become quite large and still not have any pain associated with them.
This is not uncommon in other areas of health care. Think about the list of ailments and disease that may not have any symptoms before a physician diagnosis them.
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
Waiting until these problems become noticeable or painful before treating them is not a good idea. It would be hard to imagine anyone choosing to do so.
Dental problems get worse over time. Cavities will become larger and infections will spread. Unfortunately, an antibiotic will not cure the problem. Fluoride is useful in reversing some damage to enamel and preventing cavities, but once the cavity forms fluoride can not heal or reverse the cavity. In order to stop the cavity, it has to be removed and restored with a filling or crown. Once gum disease has begun the teeth have to be treated to remove the deposits and infection.
Cavities, gum disease and nerve infection are more conservatively treated and have a higher degree of success the sooner they are diagnosed and treated. If you wait for pain or symptoms to develop the procedure for treatment will most likely be more involved and costs can be increased. If left untreated, a cavity or infection will result in the loss of the tooth. There are cases where a tooth must be removed and has a hopeless prognosis, yet the patient never had a noticeable amount of pain.
Sometimes a dentist may watch an area or tooth that does not appear normal. More information may be needed, or the area is stable and not in a disease state. Once a cavity or infection is diagnosed, the only thing that will result by continuing to watch the area is a larger cavity. Some problems can develop over a long period of time and those tend to be not as noticeable or to be causing any symptoms. Once the pain starts it seems that the problem came out of nowhere, where in fact the dental disease has been present for a long time. It has just gone from bad to worse.
It may seem to be the opposite of what is expected, but diagnosing and treating dental disease sooner than later is actually the more conservative approach.