Saving teeth when “It doesn’t hurt”.

I understand the thought saying “it doesn’t hurt” but waiting until is does can mean serious problems. This common refrain from my patients after I explain a problem I see with their teeth. Like cancer, caries (tooth decay) and periodontal disease often doesn’t hurt until the end. Fixing the ‘hurt’ is much harder (and expensive!) than fixing a smaller problem with teeth.

doesn't hurtWhy doesn’t it hurt? This is one of those tough things to explain. Mostly because, even as a dentist I don’t understand it myself. Some cavities hurt and some do not. A lot of the time cavities don’t hurt, and my patients don’t even realize they are there, or mistake them for tooth sensitivity. I often think it is because they are still small or not involving much tooth structure. But the truth is even sometimes the very big ones don’t hurt either. Sometimes I look at an x-ray and can see the decay is sitting right on the nerve and my patient tells me that it doesn’t bother them. Baffling to me because the converse is also true, some patients have pain from even the smallest cavity. I actually often find dental abscesses, a full blown infection in the jawbone from a tooth, that hasn’t been hurting either. As these things go, they don’t hurt until you are on the plane heading for vacation in another country or under stress at work/school or suffering from another illness. So what I can say for sure is that your level of pain is not a good indicator of your oral health.

What about when it does hurt? So let’s say you are more the reactive type, the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. (Which is fine. You’re call. They are your teeth afterall!) and you wait until it breaks, hurts or aches. Well, chances are I can still help you. When you have a rip roaring toothache we have few options left 1) Do nothing 2) Fix the tooth 3) extract the tooth then decide how to replace it.

I try to take a preventative approach in my office. Nipping things in the bud so to speak. If, as your dentist, I am in your employ to conserve your teeth for your lifetime I need to be proactive. This is why I do yearly check-ups (twice yearly on kids), take X-rays, ask questions and ask that you care for your teeth at home. Nobody likes dental work, not even me!

If this speaks to you, you would probably be a good fit for my office. Call 604-277-2223 and speak to Lauree or Joanne for your appointment.


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