The Largest Myth People Have About Tooth Decay

A dentist talking to her patient about the biggest myth about tooth decay
A dentist talking to her patient about the biggest myth about tooth decay

No one likes to be told they have a cavity. Immediately, your mind starts racing. Fixing this tooth decay is going to be painful and I hate that frozen lip feeling! And the cost… will my insurance cover me? Not to mention the time. I’m so busy at work right now, I don’t have time for another appointment! Fillings are so ugly… and I already have so many dark, silver patches on my pearly whites.

In just a few silent moments you’ve talked yourself out of making that follow-up appointment.

But is it really so bad? Actually, it is. The problem is the longer you wait, the more damage happens to the tooth, and the more it will cost to repair it.

That brings us to the ultimate question. How would you answer?

Cavities always have symptoms - myth or fact?

MYTH! People who believe this widely held, but FALSE idea about tooth decay express the following statements (audibly or silently). Do these expressions sound familiar?

“I don’t need to go to the dentist. My teeth feel fine!”

The problem with this thinking is that usually cavities have no symptoms. Tooth decay can start very small and not cause any pain.  The danger is that an untreated cavity can:

  • affect nerves
  • cause a tooth fracture
  • lead to a tooth abscess
  • destroy the inside of the tooth (pulp) requiring root canal treatment
  • result in loss of the tooth entirely

Don’t believe us? Let us give you a real life example. A patient recently visited Utica Dental who was told he had tooth decay between his teeth. When he first saw us he had no symptoms, but when he finally came in for treatment, we were able to show him how his teeth looked now.

Patient with significant tooth decay between teeth

A patient’s teeth who presented initially with no symptoms but later required significant dental work.

The white portion is decalcification meaning the enamel is weakened past repair. The brown portion is decay. And the dark portion is real trouble! Don’t let this happen to your precious teeth.

“I’m due for a check-up, but I don’t see any cavities. I’ll be fine for awhile.”

As in our patient pictured above, sometimes tooth decay occurs between teeth (interproximal) and may be unnoticeable to you. Small cavities may be difficult to see, especially if they are near the back of your mouth.

In fact, sometimes you may feel pain but not see any decay. In this case, the best thing to do is see your dentist right away! Get the problem fixed before you can see the decay, and it will cost you less and require less drastic treatment.

“I definitely have a cavity. But I don’t want another ugly grey filling!”

Amalgam (silver) fillings have traditionally been the most common type of material for tooth repair because of their durability, but are associated with the following problems:

  • reactions to mercury – the vapours released can cause serious immunological, neurological, and even psychological problems
  • water contamination – dental mercury is the number one source of mercury in our wastewater which ends up in our food supply (read more on Mercola’s website)
  • damage to teeth – amalgam fillings shrink and contract over time and may allow bacteria to enter the tooth causing major damage to your teeth resulting in additional fillings or root canals

But there is good news! With advanced techniques and materials now available, composite resin (tooth-colored plastic) fillings are not only as durable as real teeth but also look like the real thing!

Here are some before and after photos of a real patient:

Before photo of patient with silver amalgam fillings and after with composite resin fillings

Which option for correcting cavities would you choose?

How to Combat Tooth Decay

Prevention is the most valuable weapon to eliminate tooth decay. Hygienists may get teased about being obsessed with flossing, but there is a good reason! The American Dental Association recommends cleaning between your teeth once a day to remove plaque that brushing can’t reach, and can eventually harden into tartar. Flossing daily can prevent interproximal tooth decay and gum disease.

Avoid falling for the illusion that cavities have symptoms. Schedule (and keep) your regular hygiene visits so Dr. Hinkle can keep your smile happy and healthy. We pride ourselves on being a preventative dental office that will save your teeth and your pocketbook.

Take it from us, if you have been told you have cavities, take care of it sooner rather than later! Give us a call at 918.712.0000 if you would like a second opinion or book an appointment and have our hygienist clean those pearly whites and obsess over flossing with you!