Are cavities painful?
Cavities only become painful when they become really big. When cavities become really big, then the risk of root canal treatment significantly increases. We dentists struggle with communicating the importance of regular check-ups and cleans to our patients mainly because when there’s no pain, patients feel there’s nothing wrong with their teeth. Nothing could be further from the tooth.
In fact, only a few hours ago I saw a patient who hadn’t been in for 5 years. He was quite nervous and worried about the state of his front teeth which appeared to be stained and had build-up around them. Now, the problem wasn’t what he was talking about. Many people get build-up of stain and “calculus” (hardened plaque) or what Americans term “tartar” around their front lower teeth.
What we picked up after taking some simple x-rays was the fact that he had a large cavity in his lower left premolar. This cavity was so large that it was almost at the “pulp” (where the nerve and blood supply of the tooth lies). Had he come in a few months later, the risk of root canal therapy would have been quite high. We have possibly averted the need for root canal treatment, saving him the costs and treatment time associated with a root canal treatment and a corresponding “crown” after the treatment.
So to simply:
Tooth pain – Not good and possibly expensive to treat
No Tooth pain – Go to your dentist and save the drama of complex and potentially expensive treatment
As a side note, when cavities are small to treat, sometimes we don’t even need local anaesthetic (injections) but when cavities are larger and closer to the pulp, the anaesthetic may be not as effective in numbing the tooth so we can work on it. Even more incentive to see your local, friendly neighbourhood dentist to treat that early-stage cavity.
And finally, did you know that early-stage cavities can be remineralised? With modern treatment modalities nowadays, it’s possible to reverse early stage cavities so you can avoid the need for a filling in your tooth altogether.
Dr. Rahul Reddy