Cavities are one of the most common oral health issues faced by individuals of all ages. They can affect both children and adults, and if left untreated for too long, can cause serious damage to teeth. While it is always best to get cavities filled as soon as possible, it is important to know how long a cavity can go untreated before it causes irreparable harm.
What is a Cavity?
A cavity is a hole or decay in the tooth caused by an imbalance of bacteria and saliva inside the mouth. Plaque, which is made up of bacteria and food particles, builds up on teeth and begins to erode away at the tooth enamel. This erosion leads to cavities as it allows bacteria to penetrate deeper into the tooth structure, leading to decay. Poor dental hygiene, eating sugary foods, drinking carbonated drinks, and not brushing or flossing regularly can also increase your risk for tooth cavities.
How Long Can a Cavity Go Untreated?
Generally speaking, small cavities can go without treatment for a few months or longer before becoming painful or causing other health problems. However, bigger cavities will require immediate attention from your dentist to prevent further damage.
1. When The Cavity is Still in the Enamel
When a cavity is still in the tooth enamel, it can typically go untreated for a few months or longer before causing additional damage. During this time, it is important to practice good oral hygiene and make sure that you are brushing and flossing regularly to help reduce your risk of further tooth decay. Additionally, cutting back on sugar and avoiding carbonated drinks can also help prevent the progression of the cavity.
2. When The Cavity Has Reached the Dentin
When a cavity has reached the dentin, which is the layer beneath the tooth enamel, it is important to visit your dentist as soon as possible to get it filled. If left untreated, the decay can spread further into the inner layers of the tooth leading to severe pain and infection.
3. When The Cavity Enters The Tooth Pulp
When a cavity has entered the tooth root or pulp, it is considered to be in an advanced stage. At this point, the decay has spread from the enamel and dentin layers of the tooth and into its inner chamber, which contains blood vessels and tooth nerves. This can cause sharp pain as well as infection, so it is important to seek immediate treatment from your dentist. If left untreated for too long, the infection can spread to other areas of the body and cause serious health problems.
Consequences of Leaving Cavity Untreated
- Tooth Sensitivity: When a cavity has reached the dentin layer, it can lead to increased sensitivity to cold and hot foods and beverages. This sensitivity can be quite uncomfortable and may cause pain when eating or drinking.
- Tooth Abscess: When the decay spreads to the inner chamber of the tooth, it can cause infection and the formation of an abscess. A dental abscess is a pocket of pus that can put pressure on nearby tissues and even spread throughout your body, leading to serious health issues.
- Gum Disease: If a cavity has been left untreated for too long, it can cause gum disease. This is an infection of the tissues surrounding your teeth and can lead to tooth loss if not treated in time. Symptoms of gum disease include red, swollen gums that may bleed when brushing or flossing and bad breath.
- Tooth Loss: Over time, untreated cavities will spread and cause the tooth structure to weaken, making it more vulnerable to damage. This damage can be permanent, resulting in irreparable harm that can only be resolved through tooth extraction or dental implants.
How Are Cavities Treated?
If caught in the early stages, cavities can be treated with fillings or other restorative treatments. However, if left untreated for too long a period of time, the damage can be irreversible and may require more extensive treatments such as root canals or even tooth extraction.
1. Dental Fillings
Dental fillings are a common way to treat cavities. During the filling procedure, the affected area is first drilled out and then filled with a filling material such as composite resin or amalgam. This helps restore the tooth structure and prevent further damage from occurring. Fillings can last up to 10 years if taken care of properly and are typically painless.
2. Root Canal Treatment
A root canal procedure is used to treat cavities that have become too large or deep for a filling to be effective. During the procedure, the dentist will access the inner chamber of the tooth and remove any infected pulp before cleaning and sealing it. After this, they will fill the space with a special material and fit a crown over it in order to protect the tooth. Root canals can be uncomfortable, but they usually provide relief from pain and help prevent any further damage from occurring.
3. Tooth Extraction
Tooth extraction is a procedure in which a tooth is removed from the mouth due to severe tooth decay or damage. It is sometimes necessary if a cavity has been left untreated for too long and cannot be saved with fillings or other restorative treatments. During the procedure, the dentist will use special tools to loosen and remove the affected tooth from its socket. After this, they may also place stitches to help close the wound.
Achieve a Cavity-Free Smile Today!
Cavities can cause a great deal of harm if left untreated for too long. It is important to visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings in order to detect any cavities as soon as possible. If you are experiencing any discomfort or sensitivity, it is important to seek immediate treatment from our dentist in order to prevent further damage from occurring.