You may have seen recent headlines saying that dental fillings can do more harm than good, that they increase the risk decay in neighboring teeth. However, the study inspiring these headlines doesn’t really imply that at all. Mostly, it says that people who get one filling are likely to get another because of oral hygiene habits. But it also says there may be dentist-related factors, too.
What Causes New Cavities?
This study looked at the development of cavities near places where people received fillings, such as on other surfaces of the same tooth or on adjacent teeth. It included more than 700 people who needed fillings and monitored them for an average of 4.9 years after the initial filling. It was found that for surfaces that had no decay on them, about 60% developed decay over the follow-up period.
It was also found that about 40% of surfaces that had decay in the enamel alone, the decay progressed into the dentin, the layer of the tooth under the enamel. What factors were associated with this increased decay?
The biggest factors for new cavities were being in the top of the mouth and being on the right side of the mouth. Next, having poor or medium oral hygiene was a factor, followed by the total number of teeth with decayed, missing, or filled teeth (DMFT). For progressing cavities, it seems that the number of DMFT was the biggest risk factor.
But for both new and progressing cavities, the treating dentist was significantly associated with increased tooth decay risk.
Your Dentist’s Technique Could Make a Difference
The study design doesn’t allow us to say for certain that the choice of dentist is actually a causal factor in you developing new cavities, but it could be. It’s possible that a dentist might damage other nearby teeth when performing a filling on one tooth. A poorly shaped filling could also impact chewing or cleaning, leading to increased food or plaque residue. Or it could be that it’s the advice that the dentist gives, or the work of the hygienist associated with the dentist.
But it’s a good reminder that it’s important to take care when choosing your dentist, and make sure you’re working with a dentist whose knowledge and technique make you trust them completely.