I’ve been having a toothache on and off for about two weeks. When I was finally able to pluck up the courage to go in, the dentist did x-rays and discovered a tooth that already had a filling was infected again. He said only about 10% of the tooth is viable and he needs to extract it. He’d like to do that this week and then replace the tooth with a dental implant shortly after that. The cost seems astronomical and he’s really pressuring me to get this done. I wish I weren’t so afraid of dental procedures. It would probably make this easier.
I am very glad you wrote. I think I can help you in two ways. First, let’s talk about this dentist. While I haven’t examined you, there are a couple of things that have me suspicious here. The first is the extent of the decay he is claiming. If the tooth truly were that far gone it would not have taken an x-ray to see it. You would be able to see it with the naked eye. Additionally, decay that far gone would have caused the filling to literally fall out. There wouldn’t be enough tooth left to keep it in place.
If you combine those scenarios with his pressure tactics, I am highly suspicious of both his diagnosis and suggestions. While I do agree that if you need the tooth extracted, a dental implant is the best tooth replacement option, I am not convinced this tooth in unsalvageable. Not only that, but your dentist is ethically bound to give you all your options, not just the best one.
It is possible there is an infection brewing under the filling, but it is highly unlikely to be as extensive as your dentist indicated. Tooth infections are serious. In fact, they are considered dental emergencies. I don’t want you to put off treatment, simply because I am doubting the dentist’s suggestion. The infection will continue to spread. What I am going to recommend is that you get a second opinion. Don’t tell him what the other dentist said or who he or she is. Just go see them about a toothache.
A Word About Dental Fear
The second issue I wanted to address is your anxiety. Don’t be too hard on yourself because of that. Many patients face the same issues. Often it stems from a previous dental trauma. Fortunately, there is a solution that will make your view of the dentist much less frightening.
One of the things I would like you to do is to seek out a sedation dentist. This gives you a way to get your needed dental work in an anxiety-free/pain-free way. Be aware there are varying levels of sedation. For some patients, just getting nitrous oxide is enough. This has the benefit of allowing you to get on with your day as soon as your procedure is over.
In some cases, though, the patient’s anxiety is too strong for this to be as effective. With patients in that situation I recommend oral conscious sedation. Administered by a pill, this is so strong most patients sleep through their procedure. The only downside is its strength. You will need someone to drive you to and from your appointment as well as stay with you for a few hours afterward until you are lucid and steady on your feet.
This blog is brought to you by Lafayette, LA Dentist Dr. John Teriot.