Teeth are strong enough to last for a lifetime, yet all teeth are vulnerable to stress and decay. The jaw muscles for chewing are some of the strongest in the human body. The force of the bite impacts the teeth daily. Few materials or anatomies endure more use or are under more threat.

Cavities are the most common menace. They start out very small from bacteria that can’t be accessed by flossing and brushing. If not removed at home or from a regular visit to the dentist’s office, this bacteria will collect and begin to cause decay. Even the most diligent can get cavities due to the chemistry of food that interacts with the chemistry of the body.

At the beginning, a small cavity is easy to remove and the tooth repaired. When shallow, just the enamel of the tooth is affected. The cavity will not get smaller or disappear on its own. The bigger it grows and the deeper it penetrates into the tooth, the treatment to repair becomes more expensive, complicated, and time-consuming. If left untreated, the decay grows and eventually reaches the nerve. The tooth communicates its emergency through pain. It will lead to the death of the nerve, and require a root canal to save the tooth for functionality.

Were you surprised to learn at your regular dental checkup that you required additional procedures?

Perhaps the doctor recommended that you need to have one or more of your existing fillings replaced. If the tooth doesn’t hurt, why replace the filing? Sometimes dental problems do not have painful symptoms. Dental fillings are designed to last many years, but teeth are under constant stress. Chewing, clenching, grinding and temperature changes put tremendous force on fillings and may cause them to crack, chip, fall out or simply wear away over time.

Also, fillings can eventually pull away from surrounding tooth enamel to leave small spaces between the tooth and the filling. Bacteria can sneak in around the edges of the filling and cause decay, which can grow into the dental pulp inside the tooth and result in pain, discomfort and the need for further dental work.

The key to avoiding unnecessary discomfort is to try staying one step ahead of any loose or worn fillings by replacing them before they become a painful problem—a preemptive and relatively simple procedure that will be more economical and comfortable for you in the long run.