Procrastination vs Action: How to know when you actually need the dentist

Most articles about the dentist open up with the same old throw away lines about the pain and lifelong fears of the dentists chair. I for one actually enjoy going to the dentist. Call me crazy, but I think it’s like taking my car to the mechanic – sure, it can be expensive but my car always runs great once they’ve finished with it.

happy trip to dentist

In a perfect world we’d all floss daily, eat clean foods and go for checkups every six months. But sadly this just isn’t the reality. We avoid the place like the plague and we only go when it’s needed. So how do you REALLY know when it’s time to go?

There are 3 stages we all fall into, these range from procrastination to panic and go as follows:


Panic [aka Emergency dental situations]

Most of the time you don’t need to be told when it’s an emergency. If a tooth is knocked out of your gums, a molar snaps in half or puss is coming out of your mouth from places it shouldn’t then you definitely need to get yourself along to an emergency dentist pronto.

There are some incidences where people actually underestimate the severity of their situation though. These can be costly because the situation only gets worse and so does the pain. Here’s the most common scenario:

Problem: Miss-diagnosing a Sore Tooth

A sore tooth is the most common thing that people write off, essentially hoping that it will go away but sometimes it doesn’t and in the worst cases it can become abscessed. This is where an infection occurs where the tooth meets the gum and it can be caused from decay, gingivitis or tooth trauma. It can get swollen, red, sore and potentially lead to a root canal.

Signs to look out for:

  • Sharp shooting pains when you chew
  • Fever or swollen glands
  • A strange taste in your mouth (from the infection)
  • Bad breath

What to do:

Don’t procrastinate on this one. Get yourself along to the dentist ASAP and hopefully they’ll be able to fix it without a root canal and causing too much pain (to you and your back pocket).

Mild Concern [ aka I’ll fix it tomorrow]

We’ve all been here before. You have dull or nagging pains. Sometimes they come sometimes they go away, usually we hope it’s the latter. So what’s the fuss about. If it’s not an emergency, then why do we need to care? The truth is most of the time you don’t. But there are some instances where getting the dull pain checked can really help. Here’s a common example:

Problem: Dull pain in the molar

The back teeth or molars handle the bulk of the chewing and can need some running repairs. It’s not uncommon to see hairline cracks appear across the top of the tooth. These can be mildly uncomfortable to slightly painful in certain situations (but easy to ignore also). Problem is the crack can worsen and instead of needing a filling or a cap it can require a crown (which can cost in excess of $1000 in the US/AUS/UK).

crack in tooth serious problem
Small problems become big problems










Signs to look out for:

  • Dull pain when chewing on back molars
  • Sensitivity to cold or hot liquids

What to do:

If you are noticing prolonged symptoms beyond a week, get along to the dentist, it’s likely in the early stages and they can fix it with a filling or a cap. These are quick and inexpensive when compared to a crown.

Procrastination [aka why worry about the dentist]

Dentists would almost be out of a job if we all weren’t such procrastinators. This is the least problematic of the phases and it’s easy to understand why. For me it’s easy, I get check ups with my dentist every six months, but others don’t give a damn and have healthy teeth. I’d be interested to know the results of a cost benefit study on the following:

Not Going for Regular Checkups + Costs VS. Going for regular Checkups + Costs

If you’d got that check up every six months, would you have ended up with that filling? On the flip side you’ve also spent more money going for checkups every six months…so are you better or worse off? I’m not going to commission the study and most of you reading this are probably wondering what I’m talking about.

The point I’ve tried to raise (at times poorly) throughout this article is that underestimating dental problems and poor self diagnosis is something we’re all guilty of, but can avoid. There are unnecessary complications that can arise which are a pain in the butt – so why do it to yourselves people? Get yourself along to the dentist more often and you’ll have less problems. Who knows, you might even start to enjoy it like I do.