I came up with this story years ago to help people understand how short sighted decisions can make a long-term impact on your teeth’s health. I think if given the option, most people would like to keep their teeth for life, and do it with the lease amount of dental work, least amount of discomfort and the least amount of cost as possible.
With this in mind, let’s look at the typical life of a tooth and how small problems grow into big problems if preventive action is not taken.
Let’s begin at the “birth” of a tooth, you know, when it grows through the gums. At this time I call it a “virgin” tooth. It’s strong, healthy, and probably good looking. Children usually aren’t the best at brushing and flossing. Combine this with lots of sweets, and you have a recipe for a cavity. So if a child gets a cavity, hopefully the dentist finds the cavity early. The treatment for a small cavity is usually a filling. Lots of kids get fillings between the ages of 7-12. The child grows up with these fillings and grows into adulthood not even thinking about the fillings in their mouth. (Those fillings may be fine for 10-20 years)
Here becomes the problem… as the fillings age (10-20 years), a gap, or crevice, forms between the tooth and the filling, and the filling begins to leak.
In other words, bacteria can now creep into the tiny gap that develops between the tooth and the filling. At this time you’re an adult and you are a great brusher and flosser (hopefully). Even though you now take great care of your teeth, you can’t brush out the bacteria that live in that microscopic gap. As time passes, the bacteria colonize and begin forming a cavity below the surface of the tooth. This type of cavity rarely hurts until it’s too late. This type of cavity is not easy to detect… that is until it is very large.
So here’s the senario, you are in your 30’s and up. You have several old fillings that were done when you were a child. Those old fillings have lived their lifespan and are worn out.
What generally happens next is the dentist sees a filling that “looks” old and worn out. And he/she says, “Let’s watch it”. I always think… “Watch what?” Watch it get worse? Why?
As the leaking continues and the cavity grows, the tooth becomes weaker and weaker. Eventually the tooth will either break, or the cavity will grow so deep that it kills the nerve. This is when it begins to hurt. So now what’s your options? You can either fix it (usually requiring a root canal and a crown) or you can pull it. BUT, why has the problem got so large before fixing it? Couldn’t you have fixed it when the filling first began leaking? Back when the problem was smaller. Why not think out of the box, and fix these problems when they are very small?
I think the reason is that dentists and patients choose not to fix these problems early because insurance companies don’t like to pay for this early treatment. Lots of dentists hesitate to recommend treatment that may not be covered by insurance. But as you can see that delaying treatment only costs you more in the long run.
In our practice we believe in informing every patient when a tooth, teeth, filling, crown, or any dental work is not in ideal shape. We will inform you of your dental problems, give you the options of solutions, both short-term and long-term. We will inform you of the pros, cons, and consequences of those options. We will let YOU decide what works best for your situation.