Friday, March 23, 2007

New Dentist, New Cavities?

Q: I am 30 years old and had been seeing the same dentist my whole life, then I moved and had to find a new one. I went for my first cleaning with the new dentist and was told I had 10 cavities. I was shocked since I had just gone for a cleaning 6 months earlier and there was no problem at all. In fact I have no history of having any problems with my teeth. How do I know if I really have that bad of a problem? My teeth never even bother me.
– January, Connecticut

A: Dentists trained in U.S. dental schools receive very similar dental educations. There are standardized textbooks, curriculums, and local and national exams to take. These exams are written, oral, and practical. Thus, a diagnosis should be the same everywhere. However, a treatment plan or treatment options can vary. These differences can depend on the dentists' abilities, knowledge, experience, confidence, ethics, concern and continuing education.

All dentists should agree on whether or not a cavity (a hole in the tooth) exists. But many dentists may disagree on when to treat the cavity, for there are different guidelines on this. Some dentists treat a cavity when it is only in the enamel (outer layer of tooth structure) whereas others would make note of this hole to watch and treat only if it gets deeper. Many others would wait until the cavity penetrated into the dentin (the second layer of tooth structure). This is a judgment call—there's no right or wrong.

The answer to your question is to get a second opinion from a well-respected dentist in your area. Word of mouth may be a good indicator but in seeking a second opinion, make sure you analyze several factors including :

Respect in community
Office staff
Office cleanliness
Technology
Education and continuing education
Reputation for honesty
Level of compassion and caring

Dr. James E. Jacobs

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