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Too Many Dental Fillings Are Unnecessary

New technologies now help dentists locate minor abnormalities that may or may not ultimately turn into full-blown cavities. These problems do not require dental filling procedures, but far too many dentists recommend these anyway.

The New York Times is reporting on increasingly sophisticated dental technologies that allow the detection of minor abnormalities, like incipient carious lesions. An incipient carious lesion is one of the earliest stages of structural damage, usually caused by bacterial infections. These infections may or may not lead to a full-blown cavity. In some cases, the lesion can be treated by minerals in the saliva.

Many experts are of the opinion that these minor cavities do not need to be treated with a dental filling because damage to the enamel has not yet begun. However, a majority of dentists do not hesitate to operate on a tooth that has minor damage, and decay that has not progressed beyond the enamel. These treatments are not only painful, but also expensive.

Some incipient carious lesions cannot be seen with x-rays or the naked eye, but can be detected through fiber-optic techniques and infrared laser scanning. By using these techniques, dentists now find it possible to locate minor cavities that do not require filling, and proceed to perform these procedures anyway.

What makes all this even more confusing for consumers is that different dentists use different philosophies in such situations, and the American Dental Association is not particularly helpful. The American Dental Association does not have any specific policy regarding the treatment of incipient caries. A patient who has enjoyed good dental hygiene for several years, and suddenly finds a new dentist identifying numerous cavities and recommending filling procedures, may want to get a second opinion.

Robert Fleming is an Atlanta dental malpractice lawyer, representing victims of negligence by dentists, dental assistants and other dental professionals across Atlanta.