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Are dentists pushing unnecessary fillings?

There is an apparent trend happening in the world of dentistry: more fillings.  Patients say their dentists’ are finding more cavities these days than they ever did before.  So, what’s going on?

Finding more problems
According to an article in the New York Times, increasingly sophisticated detection tools are causing more dentists to find and fill problem areas that may or may not develop into cavities.

While some dentists claim the technology is in the best interests of the patient, critics say the procedures are unnecessary and painful, and are driving up the costs of care.

“A better approach is watchful waiting,” said Dr. James Bader, a research professor at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry. “Examine it again in six months.”

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Big money in fillings
Every cavity requires a painkiller, drilling and filling.  Such operations typically cost $88 to $350 per filling, according to a 2007 survey in the magazine Dental Economics. According to the American Dental Association, about 175 million filling operations are performed in the United States every year.

Better care, or better profit margin
It’s a debate that is currently in the forefront of dentistry.  Is this new technology leading to better oral care, or is it just drumming up more business during a tough economic time.  Critics say watch and wait, proponents say waiting doesn’t make sense.

“If you were to go to a physician and he were to diagnose risk factors for heart disease, the physician would take action and treat the early signs of disease and try to prevent future disease,” said Dr. Douglas Young, who helped develop a standardized cavity risk assessment adopted by the dental association.

While this guideline was adopted, not every dentist adheres to it.  Treatment options are up to each dentist.

Best advice: Get a second opinion if your number of cavities skyrocket.

About Lisa

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As a journalist Lisa enjoys writing about a variety of topics. Over the course of the last ten years she has been involved in television news as well as print and online publications. Medical news has always been a favorite for this native New Yorker because she gets to stay on top of the latest developments in a rapidly changing field. Lisa Furgison on Google+

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