It can sometimes be tempting for patients to avoid seeking help for a minor dental issue.
Like all dental practices across the country, we have helped patients at the Confidental Clinic who, when asked if there were any problems at a regular check-up, tell us that a tooth had been ‘playing up’ for a little while. Usually this would be either not painful or not overly inconvenient enough to seek prompt treatment and the patient chose to wait until their next check up appointment at our Greenwich dental surgery.
Although this may be understandable and it is perhaps a very English trait not to want to ‘bother’ the dentist, doing so is a mistake that you could, potentially, pay for dearly.
What constitutes a ‘minor’ dental issue?
This depends on who you ask. If you ask a patient they may well say that issues such as a chipped tooth, a small crack, or even a tiny bit of decay can all wait a few months to be treated. If you ask a dentist, we would say that none of these should be ignored, and whilst they may not be causing any immediate discomfort, they are all issues that should be treated as soon as possible, and definitely not left for several months.
Any problem that damages the enamel in any way, whether that be by decay, a chip or a crack needs to be checked and potentially restored .. and as quickly as possible.
What happens if you leave a small defect on the tooth enamel?
Once the enamel on your teeth becomes damaged or compromised, it exposes the dentin layer beneath it. This porous material is easily affected by bacteria and acids and will eventually lead to tooth decay. This alone can soon result in a toothache, or even a root canal infection, should it reach that far before it is treated.
If a tooth is cracked or chipped, it is not only decay that might be a problem. A cracked tooth is a weakened tooth and it may not stand the daily rigours that it is subject to. If ignored, even for a short while, further breakages may well occur which will need more extensive restorative treatment.
What sort of treatments should you expect?
This very much depends not only on the degree of damage caused, but also how long it has been left. The sooner you are seen by a dentist at our Greenwich practice, the more likely it is that these issues can be restored in a relatively minimally invasive manner.
For early stage tooth decay, there is every chance that this can be restored using our popular white dental fillings. These are not only strong but are also made to match the colour of your natural teeth, so they will not stand out. Where significant decay, or breakage is present, a crown may be used instead.
If a tooth is chipped or cracked, the first thing that we will do it investigate whether this is a cosmetic issue or whether the damage affects the dentin. For cosmetic issues, we may suggest a non invasive option such as cosmetic bonding. If the damage is more significant, it may well be that dental veneers or other type of restoration provides the best option for you. We will discuss the options with you when we examine the tooth, or teeth, that are affected.
Generally speaking, these are the most likely treatments if you have the issue seen to straight away. What happens though, if you decide to ignore the problem and wait a few months until your next appointment? Instead of a small filling, the cavity is likely to have become larger and require, at the very least, a larger filling. A crown is also more likely to be used, and in very bad cases with poor prognosis, you may even have to have the tooth extracted.
If the root canals have become infected, a simple filling will no longer be appropriate and you will need to have root canal treatment to save the tooth. The only other option is to have it extracted. We know that some patients are worried about this procedure and we are happy to explain why you shouldn’t be. Far better though, is to act fast so that you hopefully won’t end up needing this treatment!
If you notice any problem at all with your teeth, please don’t leave it until your next appointment. If you call our receptionist and explain the problem to them, they will do their best to get you an appointment as soon as they can. Where you are in pain, they will attempt to do so the same day if at all possible.
Above all, do not ignore your teeth. They should last you for all of your life, or most of it at least if you look after them properly. Keep them healthy by looking after them well at at home and regular visits to see our team, and please contact us straight away if you have a problem. You can get in touch with the Confidental Clinic in Greenwich on 020 8858 1422.