Over the years, I have met many patients that firmly believe their dentists “drilled holes” in their teeth for no reason or performed unnecessary treatments. The implication, of course, is that the patient believes his or her dentist is unethical and is making up dental work because he or she is only in it for the money. While I am sure there are unethical “bad apples” in every profession, it’s hard to believe that most dentists would drill otherwise healthy teeth. The pitfall of getting a second, contradictory opinions is in choosing the opinion you want to hear. But what if the second dentist is wrong? You just did yourself, or your family, and the previous dentist a huge disservice.
In the past, all that dentists had was a sharp, pointy pick to identify cavities. Some dentists do not even sharpen the instrument and miss small cavities with their dull picks. Then X-rays came along and our diagnostic ability improved. Imagine if dentists did not use X-rays and were blind to active disease in patients’ mouths today? Studies show that at best a brand new, sharp dental pick, called “the explorer,” is about 60 percent effective in disclosing small cavities. That means 40 percent of cavities go undetected and allowed to destroy your teeth further. So, a small, conservative filling will turn into a larger, more expensive and more tooth-destructive filling, crown—or worse, root canal. Using modern technology that is more accurate than using outdated instruments that rely on the dentist’s tactile perception is simply better. You always rely on a doctor’s OPINION, and opinions do differ. Just look at politics! However, there is only ONE true diagnosis. If a dentist misdiagnoses, he or she is not treating the true problem. So, getting the diagnosis right is the first critical step in disease treatment. Technology evens the playing field of doctor opinion.
Identifying any disease at its earliest stage leads to easier, more predictable treatment, faster recovery and better long-term prognosis. Teeth are no different. The fact is there is no synthetic material that is as good, or better, than the natural tooth. We are living longer today, and if your goal is to maintain a healthy mouth and keep your teeth for a lifetime, then diagnosing oral disease at its earliest stage is the key.
Today, it is possible to predictably reverse or heal (re-mineralize) early cavities without drilling or filling. But it is only possible when the cavity is identified at its earliest stage. That means employing modern technology. If your dentist chose not to invest in new technology, or is not aware of its existence, well then you will NOT benefit form early cavity detection.
Fortunately today, there is a large variety of diagnostic instruments that help modern dentists to identify cavities much sooner than before. Technologies like lasers, transillumination, heat sensors, ultrasound sensors, digital X-rays and 3D X-rays are just some of the new technologies, and there are more to come.
The next time you question your dentist and seek a second opinion, make sure you are comparing “apples to apples.” If the opinion differs, do not choose the opinion that you want to hear. Go for a third opinion and choose the corroborated diagnosis using the best or at least the same technology.