My dentist says I have a cavity and that I need a filling. But why doesn’t my tooth hurt?

When people hear that they have a cavity, they are often surprised because it doesn’t hurt. The truth is that cavities do not always cause pain, and there is a simple explanation for this.

The Decay Process Explained

A tooth that is in the early stages of decay does not necessarily hurt. The enamel is the hardest portion of the tooth and does not contain any nerve endings, so decay in this area does not cause pain. The next layer is the “dentin.” Dentin isn’t as hard as enamel, but it also does not contain any nerve endings. Therefore, the decay that reaches the dentin doesn’t cause pain either.

When Pain Begins 

The pain begins when untreated decay reaches the tooth’s pulp. At this point, you may experience pain when you bite into your food and/or ingest hot or cold food or beverages. It may even be very painful when you are not eating or drinking. Sometimes, untreated decay infects the nerve and causes an abscess to develop, and this is what causes throbbing pain. Once you have reached this point, it will be too late for your dentist to treat the cavity with a simple filling. Root canal therapy will be required to remove the infected soft pulp of your tooth.

When a Cavity Doesn’t Need to Be Filled 

It’s possible to have a cavity or a crack that does not need to be filled. These types of cavities exist within the enamel only and have not penetrated to the deeper layers of the tooth. This type of decay can be reversed with the use of fluoride.

Cavities that are not reversible have penetrated the enamel and reached the dentin. This is the type of decay that gets worse and enters the pulp where the nerves and blood vessels reside. When you have this type of decay, the treatment is much more expensive, so it is worth it to allow your dentist to fill your cavity now even though it doesn’t hurt.

The Consequences of Not Having Tooth Decay Treated

After your dentist determines that root canal therapy is necessary, he or she will remove the diseased pulp including the blood vessels. As a result, the tooth will not have a blood supply, and this will significantly weaken it. The next step will be to have the tooth covered with a crown. In the end, this will mean that you will have to experience much more pain than you are currently, and it will cost a lot more money to fix. So, don’t let this happen to you.

So for your regular dental check-up’s and cleanings, contact Corne Smith Dentistry, Claremont, Cape Town to ensure healthy teeth and no pain!