FAQ Question 3

Q3. I did not have toothache until I went for a checkup and my dentist told me that I had a cavity and did a filling for me. Pain developed afterwards. He tells me I now need a root canal therapy for this tooth to relieve the pain. Is my dentist causing me all this unnecessary treatment?

Answer: A cavity can develop silently and elusively both to your feeling and even to the dentist’s eyes. Often a cavity is detected only when an x-ray is taken. Sometimes it is difficult to predict whether the cavity just needs a filling or a root canal therapy as well. This often depends on how extensive the cavity has developed or just depends on individual case somehow without any warning signs in advance. Misunderstanding easily arises if prior to restoring the tooth with a filling, the patient is not forewarned by the dentist that the tooth may need a root canal therapy as well.

I often warn my patient that a filling for a tooth can turn into an inflammation of the pulp, especially if the cavity is very close to the pulp chamber before I start any treatment to this tooth. Unfortunately, when it happens, patients often forget what their dentists have told them or that the dentists really did not forewarn them. As a result, patients often hold their dentists guilty for causing problems to their teeth. This is unfair to the dentists. Let’s assume if the tooth with cavity develops silently without the patient knowing about it or without the dentist treating it, what will happen? The cavity will spread into the pulp, then it may cause severe toothache later that it leads to a dental emergency, or the problem can still be going on silently, until the tooth is decayed to the point even root canal therapy and a crown will not be able to save the tooth.

The tooth with a problem still will haunt you one day, it is just a question of when. Therefore, your dentist advised you that you had a cavity and did a filling was out of good will. The only mistake he has done is that he did not explain well to you the situation in advance. I am confident that most dentists are highly conscientious and competent.