Should I get a new dentist?
September 19, 2006 8:28 PM   Subscribe

Should I get a new dentist?

A little while ago I went to the dentist after about 2-3 years of not seeing one. It turns out I had a cavity, but no dental pain or any discomfort. The dentist filled the cavity and after a couple of weeks it hurt like hell. She told me that it was filed too high and the top molar was pressing down on it. She filed it down again and the pain started to go away. Now I have a steady amount of minor pain/discomfort there whenever I bite into something hard or drink something very cold. I was told that if filing it down didnt help I would probably need a root canal. Whats going on here? Should I just see another dentist for a second opinion? It seems crazy to go through a whole root canal when that tooth wasnt even bothering me before! Is this a common scenario? Should I be concerned?
posted by damn dirty ape to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
Yes, go see a different dentist.

Someone was just today complaining to me about how shoddy his dentist was. He had a similar problem to yours. His filling fell out after only a couple days, and the dentist literally took the old filling and pushed it back in the hole. Sure enough, days later he was in bad pain. It turns out he's been going to see this guy for years and never liked him.

Just find another dentist. There's plenty of them out there. I'd bet there's as big a percentage of crummy dentists as there are crummy auto mechanics, or attorneys, etc....
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:36 PM on September 19, 2006

That's pretty common, you can fill a tooth, and it can still give you problems. More then likely opening it up just sped it up, it was going to get bad anyways. Get the root canal, if you're having the pain you describe now, it can only get worse, trust me on that one.
posted by gregschoen at 8:36 PM on September 19, 2006

It could be that it's still too high - I had a similar experience and I went back three times to have it filed down. The third time was the charm, however it did take some time (~3 months?) for the pain to completely go away. If you need a root canal, shouldn't you be able to see it on an x-ray?
It never hurts to get a second opinion from another dentist.
posted by j at 8:44 PM on September 19, 2006

I agree with Greg that fillings can still cause pain afterwards. I am a vet with the dentist, going once every five weeks for five years after a tooth dissolved into a tumor in the roof of my mouth.
Get the root canal, but if it comforts you, try to see another dentist - as a consultant - if you decide to change dentists and they tell you that a root canal is necessary, you will have to pay for new x-rays etc.
posted by parmanparman at 8:52 PM on September 19, 2006

2-3 years of not seeing one. . . well, I would assume that your time with the hygienist was not the funnest. But yes ask around and choose another dentist. . .there are plenty of crappy ones out there.
posted by Danf at 8:52 PM on September 19, 2006

I had a cavity filled and had the same symptoms you described. When I bit it felt like a pain inside my tooth. It went away after a couple of weeks.
posted by PowerCat at 8:58 PM on September 19, 2006

If you're at all uncomforable with your dentist's decisions, then seek a second opinion. Dental stuff is often painful and disconcerting, but jesus christ, if it's bugging you enough to post, schedule an appointment with somebody else. Even if it doesn't improve the condition of your teeth, it'll take a weight off your mind. Worst case: new dude agrees. You wasted some cash. Worth it?
posted by erikgrande at 9:55 PM on September 19, 2006

I believe you should indeed go see another dentist. This one sounds like she's not quite cut out for what she's doing.
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:37 PM on September 19, 2006

My guess is that this is typical of really big fillings. I have a tooth that is similar, but the pain is very minor. Very very minor.

I think the idea is, drilling out the old filling only makes the hole in your tooth bigger, which means you can't really fix the problem with another filling. Hence the root canal.
posted by Chuckles at 11:16 PM on September 19, 2006

My point being, from my very superficial understanding, there is no indication of incompetance here.
posted by Chuckles at 11:17 PM on September 19, 2006

Definitely go and see another dentist. Root canals are expensive. Unnecessary ones are bad for your wallet, and good for the dentists wallet. I speak as someone who had several root canals done (at least one was unnecessary) after going to visit a dentist for the first time in years. In retrospect I was too trusting. Always get a second opinion if the dentist is new to you, and they are suggesting an expensive procedure. There are (in my opinion) a lot of profit-oriented dentists out there. Look for a good one who doesn't keep selling you new procedures.

Chuckles - if the dentist is so competent, why didn't she recommend a root canal in the first place? That's what X-rays are for, seeing what needs to be done. She has got the cash for a filling, a filing, and now root canal. That smells pretty fishy to me.
posted by Joh at 12:27 AM on September 20, 2006

If you need a root canal, shouldn't you be able to see it on an x-ray?

Not necessarily so. An x ray is a diagnostic tool, it is not and never was the eye of God.

I agree that the facts we have before us don't show incompetance outright, and I also have a filling that was quite large and caused me some pain on chewing for a good six months. In fact, most of #14 is a filling, it probably should have been a crown, so when it fails I'll end up with an implant.

Get the second opinion, if the root canal becomes necessary go for it, but don't burn any bridges, because middle of the night dental pain? Searing pain? Not fun.
posted by bilabial at 2:29 AM on September 20, 2006

I was in the exact same situation and, after giving the original dentist 3 chances (over a 6 week period) to "adjust the bite" by filing down the filling, I sought a second opinion.

The second dentist took an X-ray and noticed that the filling was very close to the nerve inside the tooth. The only solution is a root canal. He tried to adjust the bite further but over a month later I still have the pain.

I haven't yet decided whether the pain is bad enough to go through the hassle and expense of a root canal. For now I just warm or cool all my food to body temperature and put it through a blender before consuming.
posted by santry at 7:01 AM on September 20, 2006

Oh, I should add that the second dentist gave me no indication that the first dentist had been incompetent. It just seemed that the cavity was in a bad place.
posted by santry at 7:02 AM on September 20, 2006

One reason you have to go to another dentist is that you don't trust the first one. She may be perfectly honest and competent, but you have to be able to trust your dentist.

It's possible that she doesn't explain things well enough, or doesn't mention things that you need to know.

Santry's experience might be exactly what's happening in your case. Maybe a root canal was called for in the first place, but your dentist hoped a lesser measure would suffice. If so, she should have let you in on it at the time so you could participate in the decision.
posted by wryly at 9:22 AM on September 20, 2006

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