Sometimes waiting may seem like a good idea. If you notice the paint is starting to peel on your house, you may think, “I’ll wait another year before I get it painted”. No harm, and no expense to put it off.
Things are different with dentistry. Often people with a deteriorating dental situation may have a filling recommended by their dentist. But that person may say, “Well it doesn’t bother me. I’ll just wait until it starts hurting”. Decay, once identified and treated early, can be treated conservatively. Often symptoms like pain and sensitivity can indicate the need for a root canal. Waiting until a tooth is sensitive often allows the decay to invade the nerve of the tooth. Once a nerve is infected, a root canal is the recommended treatment, or tooth extraction. Once a root canal is done, a crown is frequently recommended to complete treatment. The outcome is much more costly than a simple filling.
Often dental composite fillings are recommended to replace silver-mercury fillings. The main reason that I recommend replacing silver-mercury fillings is that these fillings often crack teeth. When we replace fillings before the tooth cracks, we can often treat the tooth conservatively with a simple filling. But if we wait until cracks are evident in the tooth, a more costly crown is the recommended treament. And if the crack extends to the nerve, once again a root canal may be indicated. In some cases a crack extends so far that it can actually split the tooth. Replacing an extracted tooth is always the most costly outcome.
In dentistry, it never pays to wait. The earlier we identify a problem, the more conservative and less costly the treament can be.