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Tooth in danger after multiple assurances it was fine



Dec 15, 2023
I am so, so frustrated. I have a severe dental phobia, but I was trying to get everything caught up last year. My dentist retired at the end of 2021 and I have also been trying different dentists to find one that I am comfortable with and am confident is technically competent.

I have seen at least four dentists who were not concerned about a tooth that is in big trouble now. Tooth number 27 on the bottom right near the front was hurting when the floss would rub up against it. I pointed it out to all four dentists. One originally said upon closer examination that it did need a really small filling. Then at a later appointment she said, no we're not doing any fillings on the bottom right - we're doing two on the bottom left. The last exam I had was last August with a different dentist. I asked him to check all my teeth and pointed out that there was some pain on 27. He saw nothing. So, I comforted myself with the idea that I was good to go for now. Well, about a month ago I started feeling sensitivity to cold on that tooth. I made an appointment with the dentist I saw in August. That appointment was for today. In the meantime, I started having sensitivity to heat, which it is my understanding is a bad sign compared to cold. The floss is also catching now on some kind of ridge. I can see the gray area of the tooth myself in the mirror, but I could see it months ago when the dentists told me it was okay. I went today and he did bitewings and talked with me. I specifically asked for a peri-apical x-ray of #27. He put it on the screen to show me, and he looked like he was trying to hide shock or embarrassment. He said, this must be what you're feeling, you're right. And there was a huge! cavity that looks very close to the nerve. He said there is not much space in there between the cavity and the nerve but that it can be filled without a root canal, but I already have heat sensitivity. When I asked about that specifically, he kind of politely blew it off.

I am beside myself. This tooth has been decaying for at least two years while one dentist after another assured me all was well. When I reported pain that they couldn't see, why didn't they do a peri-apical? I had so many questions back then and other teeth to ask about that it didn't occur to me to push for one until today, but why didn't they think of it? I have already lost 8 teeth in addition to my wisdom teeth. So far, only one top tooth was close enough to the front that you can kind of see it if I laugh out loud, but if I lose #27 it will be obvious to everyone. I got a partial that I sometimes use for eating, but I don't like to wear it normally. If I lose #27, I would have to have a partial in all the time that I am around people. It is driving me crazy that I knew something was wrong and didn't push harder because they were so sure. I don't get it.

I know the heat sensitivity is a bad sign and that oftentimes the decay is deeper than it appears on x-ray once they get in there to fix it. I have tried so hard to accept the loss of one tooth after another due to my phobia, but the thought of losing this one in the front due to multiple misdiagnoses is more than I can stand.
@Anne2023 Hi Anne, I am really sorry this happened to you. I can relate, I have had the experience of being harmed by errors and choices made by dentists and orthodontists. Also, many versions of the situation where I wasn't given information that I should have been given for informed consent or to make an informed decision, they just did what they wanted and I wasn't given information enough to understand what was being done. This kind of thing isn't fair and it is infuriating and upsetting. It is so good that you advocated for yourself and were able to get the peri apical xray, it sounds like you might have a chance to save the tooth with fillings?
@NervousUSA I'm sorry I didn't see your reply until yesterday and then didn't have a chance to respond. I always have to get into a certain mindset to be able to communicate about dental things. I remember that you have been mishandled by dentists and orthodontists. You get it. I have also had non-dental medical professionals harm me doing thing they weren't supposed to do. It's so frustrating because people want you to trust again and that only works if the professionals are trustworthy.

So...since my dentist retired at the end of 2021, I hadn't found anyone I trusted. I'll use aliases so this doesn't get confusing. I saw Dr. Donna in January 2023 and she did a comprehensive exam. She really did. She checked out every tooth carefully and notated all the ones with any cavities no matter how small. She wanted to work on at least seven and maybe four more on top of that. She filled two deep cavities in April 2023 and I started having an unpleasant taste in my mouth that compelled me for much of 2023. (I now believe that it is a psychosomatic manifestation of burning mouth syndrome likely brought on by fear and anxiety). At any rate, it made me wonder if I should go with her. I also went back for multiple appointments about it and continued to postpone the fillings she wanted to do. In the meantime I saw Dr. Bill in May 2023 and he only saw one tooth that needed work-#28. Dr. Donna had mentioned it but it was very small. I had actually pointed #27 out to Dr. Bill and asked him to take a closer look and mentioned that when I rubbed it with floss, it kind of hurt. He didn't see a problem with it and didn't take an x-ray, just the bitewings that don't get the front teeth in them. Now I thought - wow - Dr. Donna must be really aggressive, drilling at teeth that don't need work.

Time wore on and the burning mouth syndrome was a bigger concern for me, but I thought I should break the tie between Dr. Donna and Dr. Bill to see if I really needed work on these teeth or not. So, I saw Dr. Paul in August 2023 (still trying to choose a dentist for the long-term). He didn't think anything needed work, even #27 which I reported and asked about. His exam didn't seem as comprehensive as Dr. Donna's, but he was quite confident and we had a good rapport (or so I thought). So, I comforted myself that Dr. Donna was just a really aggressive dentist and that I was fortunate to see Dr. Bill and Dr. Paul and not get all that unnecessary work done.

That was the one I went to see last Monday - Dr. Paul - the one that looked shocked and embarrassed when the x-ray showed a deep cavity. I also asked about a black line on #29. He said it looks good - maybe he would guess that years down the road, my next cavity would be in #29, but nothing right now. So I called Dr. Bill's office that day and reported symptoms. That got me in two days later - last Wednesday. He x-rayed #27 and #29 and both need fillings. He didn't comment on how deep #27 was, but I could tell the quality of the x-ray was poor and didn't show how deep it really is. He said the black line on #29 is decay around the edge of the previous filling and needs to be redone. So...I called Dr. Donna's office. She got me in today to look them over. She did periapical x-rays - #27 is a deep cavity and #28 and #29 both need restorations. So, I screwed up last year putting any stock in Dr. Bill and Dr. Paul and thinking all was well. She offered then and there to do all three today because she knows about my anticipatory anxiety and how hard it will be to get me to come through the door another day. I told her that I had to leave by a certain time and she said we had time. I was going to let her do them all at first and she did do #27. Then she realized that the wall clock that she had been referring to had stopped at some point that day and that there was not time to do the other two before my deadline to leave. She had the time, but I didn't. The work itself went okay and I got through it better than I would have anticipated.

Now, however, I'm just so scared to have yet another deep filling and another tooth that may or may not make it or may or may not send me into severe pain in the next few days while we wait and see how it handled the drilling and everything. This is awful. I'm feeling some pain already since the anesthetic wore off, but I also get atypical facial pain from stress and other odd shock sensations in some of my teeth when holding tension in my face - sensations that are not there at night or at rest. So, I'm struggling that I already feel something and I'm terrified that it's the tooth she just worked on - in reality, it could be. And it's Wednesday afternoon. I usually try to get Tuesday mornings so that there is more week left in case it has to come out. I'm really just upset right now and I realize that there are some amazing, wonderful dentists out there.

I also need to have my son go back in. The dentist my kids used when they were kids is phasing himself out toward retirement but isn't gone yet. His son and his daughter have both become dentists. They won't let you choose which one you get for your exam, though you can choose for the actual work. That's crazy. What if one of them diagnoses a tooth and then when you come back for the fillings, the other one doesn't see what the problem is!?! When my son went there in May 2023, the older dentist's son diagnosed two teeth he wanted to fill. His father - my kids' childhood dentist - a very good one by the way - had always given my son a good report. So I was leery of this new young one, and it was at the same time that I was going through my decision-making for me. So I suggested Dr. Bill. He saw Dr. Bill last May or June and guess what - he didn't need any work. At the time I thought - another over-aggressive dentist fresh out of school. My son just went back to Dr. Bill for a check-up in March (2024) - again, no work needed. Now I'm wondering if my son has cavities festering that need work and he will end up needing a root canal if we don't go back to the son of the childhood dentist. This is so frustrating and impossible! It's really making me wish I had just gone to dental school myself so I could diagnose my own teeth and my kids' teeth!
That is quite a situation! I wonder if it might be worth asking Dr. Gordon about the situation with #27, he might know what is the cause of so many mistakes being made. Do you feel like Dr. Donna is the best of the dentists you have seen? The situation with your son is hard, too. Maybe Dr. Donna might give your son a third opinion, if you think she is decent? If this were me, I might try and see what Gordon thought of Bill, Donna, and Paul, or maybe discuss the three of them with a Denteractive or The Teledentists dentist, and see what they though of the whole story with them. I know the feeling of wishing to have dental training, or medical training, to keep yourself and your family safe, I have often felt that way! The closest I have been able to get to anything like that is using lots of telehealth advice services.