Most patients assumed that cavities are painful. And, why wouldn’t they? There are many references to tooth pain and pain associated with dental treatment in popular culture. In fact, the truth is quite different. Many patients often note their surprise at having one or more cavities. Most commonly, the reason cited is that they don’t have any pain.
Why don’t most cavities cause pain?
Some cavities cause pain but most don’t. Unfortunately, this can be an obstacle to proper dental care because most people believe pain will indicate when something is wrong. This is certainly true in some areas of disease, but not always. Occasionally, this disbelief results in a patient refusing treatment. Sometimes a patient will advise us that they’d prefer to wait until they have pain. Other times, patients do not regularly see a Family Dentist because they assume that no pain means no problems.
Cavities are a collection of soft tooth structure containing the bacteria that cause them. As these bacteria continue to digest food debris and plaque, they produce more byproduct acid causing the cavity to deepen. Importantly, this is a slow process. As the cavity deepens slowly, your tooth responds by clogging small tubes in the dentin. By blocking these tubes, pain transmission to your nerve is inhibited. This is why most people don’t feel pain when they have a cavity.
Dental Fillings: Treating Cavities & Decay
Most cavities can be repaired with a simple dental filling. Some patients have a cavity for the first time and are not familiar with the procedure. For them, I include this brief description of the process:
- In most cases, treatment requires local anesthetic or “dental freezing/numbing”. This numbing takes about 3-5 minutes to take effect.
- Your Dentist cleans the cavity with a dental hand piece using agitation and high pressure irrigation with water.
- The Dentist sterilizes the site and places a dental filling. Most commonly, he/she will bond a tooth-coloured filling to repair the cavity. They will cure or harden the filling material with a blue UV light.
- Your Family Dentist will adjust and polish the filling to re-establish a comfortable feeling on closure/chewing.
Occasionally, patients will experience some mild temperature- or pressure-sensitivity after their appointment for dental fillings. This is not atypical and gradually subsides over a period of 3-5 days.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a dental condition or treatment.