How Long Can You Leave A Cavity Untreated?

Cavities are a fairly common occurrence. Many people get at least one cavity in their lifetime. What if there is a small cavity in my tooth, or it doesn’t hurt? What if you can’t even see your cavity, that it was only spotted by a dental x-ray? 

Some people think that if a cavity doesn’t hurt, it’s no big deal and can be left alone. That’s not the case at all. 

How long can you leave a cavity untreated? At Endicott Dental, we’ve seen what happens when people decide not to get their cavities fixed immediately. Just because it doesn’t hurt immediately doesn’t mean it won’t hurt eventually, causing damage to the tooth along the way. To understand why you need to fix your cavity right away, you should understand what a cavity is and what it can do to your tooth. 

What Is a Cavity?

A cavity is formed as a result of tooth decay, which is usually caused by a problem with oral health, like a lack of proper brushing and flossing. Food and drinks leave a film on your teeth called plaque, which contains bacteria that eat away at the protective outer shell of the tooth, called enamel. Eventually, the enamel breaks down enough to form a weak spot or a hole. This is a cavity. 

You can get cavities on your front teeth, a cavity in your molar, or cavities between teeth. A front tooth filling and a filling cavities between teeth will be slightly different, but the end result is the same - the stopping tooth decay in that area with a dental filling.

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What Happens If You Don’t Get Cavities Filled?

You may think that because a cavity doesn’t hurt, it isn’t doing any damage. This isn’t true. Once a cavity forms, it continues to grow and dig into the tooth. 

Eventually, it will hit the dentin, which is the inner protective layer of the tooth. Once it reaches the pulp, the living center of the tooth, it can cause serious damage. 

You may not feel a cavity as it destroys the enamel, but you likely will start to feel it once it reaches the dentin. Exposed dentin can make your tooth sensitive to hot, cold, sugar, or acid, which can cause it to hurt. The more the dentin is exposed and damaged, the more sensitive the tooth will become. 

Once the cavity has reached the pulp, it now has access to the tooth’s nerves and blood vessels. This is where the major damage occurs. The cavity will damage the nerves, which can be very painful. It can also damage the blood vessels, and the bacteria can get into the bloodstream from there. 

Left untreated, this can lead to an infected tooth, a dental abscess, death of the tooth, and even a dangerous infection that can get into your blood and spread throughout your body. While this is an extreme case, it has happened, and “Can you die from a cavity” is not something we would ever like to have to discuss. 

It may seem like this is a long process, but it isn’t. An untreated cavity can go from a small hole in the enamel to penetrating the pulp in as little as three months. That’s why it’s so important to stop the cavity right away. Otherwise, it will steadily get worse, and the consequences could be severe.

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How Do I Prevent Cavities?

The best cavity prevention is also the easiest — brush and floss properly for two minutes at a time at least twice a day. You also need to visit your dentist every six months for a regular checkup and cleaning. 

Some patients may be more prone to cavities because of certain medications, illnesses, or genetic conditions. In those cases, Dr. Endicott may recommend something more, such as a medicated mouthwash that delivers extra fluoride protection from what their toothpaste can provide. For the most part, though, brushing and flossing regularly can keep you from getting cavities.

Treating Cavities in Broken Arrow, OK

Endicott Dental, your dentist in Broken Arrow, OK, can help you keep on top of tooth decay before it becomes a cavity. Come visit us twice a year for a thorough examination and cleaning. We may do fluoride treatments to prevent cavities, as well, to add another level of protection.

If we do find a cavity, we can do a cavity-filling procedure before it becomes more serious. Don’t worry! Cavity fillings don’t hurt, and cavity fillings don’t take long. 

We can also recommend whether you need extra protection, such as medical mouthwash, or whether you need better methods or tools for brushing to help your oral hygiene routine. 

Cavities may not seem like a big deal at first, but they can become one very quickly. Make sure you take care of any cavities you have right away!

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