What Happens When Cavities Go Untreated?

Posted on: October 15, 2023

Cavities Bellevue, WA

Cavities are holes in the enamel of a tooth. A cavity that is detected early and treated in a timely manner does not pose much of a risk to your long-term health. However, if cavities go untreated for an extended amount of time, then it can lead to worsening concerns, including severe discomfort and potential tooth loss.

The risks of untreated dental cavities

A cavity that is left untreated can become more severe, which can lead to an increase in discomfort and the need for more extensive treatment to save the tooth. If the tooth is left untreated for too long, then tooth extraction may be necessary. On the other hand, treating a dental cavity in the early stages is typically non-invasive and more affordable.

The cavity becomes more severe

A minor cavity is not a major cause for concern and can effortlessly be treated with a minimally invasive dental filling procedure. However, since it is easy for bacteria and food particles to get lodged in a cavity, they typically worsen quickly if they are not treated right away. As cavities get deeper and wider, the experience can be more complicated and painful.

The tooth becomes more painful

As mentioned, cavities that go untreated typically become larger, which exposes the nerves and blood vessels more and leads to more painful symptoms and increased tooth sensitivity. The discomfort from a more severe dental cavity can make it more challenging to function each day until the concern is properly treated.

A tooth infection can develop

Anytime bacteria has the ability to accumulate, an infection is possible. If a cavity is left untreated and the decay extends toward the root of a tooth, the risk of infection is much higher. If a tooth infection develops, then it could put the tooth in jeopardy, leading to severe pain and swelling, and possibly spreading to other parts of the mouth and body.

The patient may need root canal therapy

The most common way in which deep tooth decay is treated is root canal therapy. This is specifically necessary if the decay extends toward the tooth’s root. A root canal procedure is more invasive, requiring the removal of decayed portions of the tooth root and filling the tooth with a material called gutta-percha. A crown is typically required afterward to restore the size, shape, and appearance of the tooth.

The tooth may fall out or extraction may be necessary

The ultimate result for many who do not seek treatment for a cavity is the loss of a tooth, which results from a weakened root of the tooth (in which case the tooth falls out on its own or requires extraction). This leads to the need for a replacement tooth.

FAQs about cavity treatment and prevention

The following are answers to three of the most frequently asked questions that patients have about cavity treatment are in regard to root canal therapy, cavity fillings, and preventive care long-term.

When is a root canal necessary for cavity treatment?

A root canal may be necessary for cavity treatment when the cavity is too large to fill with a composite or amalgam filling. In this case, the decay of the tooth is usually deep and extends toward the tooth’s root; root canal therapy helps remove and clean the decayed portion of the tooth and then fills and seals the tooth.

How long do cavity fillings last?

The length of time a cavity filling lasts varies depending on the location of the tooth and the type of dental filling material. In general, cavity fillings last between five and 15 years. The more durable options such as metal alloy or gold last much longer than tooth-colored dental filling restorations, although they do not offer the same aesthetic benefit.

How can I prevent future cavities after treatment?

After treating dental cavities, the long-term focus shifts to the prevention of cavities. This can be accomplished by good oral hygiene that should include brushing and flossing regularly. Mouthwash can also help kill bacteria inside the mouth that leads to dental cavities. Dentists may also recommend preventive treatments such as dental sealants, which protect the most vulnerable areas (chewing surfaces) of teeth.

Think you might have a cavity?

Give our dental team a call today if you have a cavity or are experiencing discomforting symptoms with one or more of your teeth. We can determine the cause and severity of your concern and put together a treatment plan to help you achieve optimal oral health.

Request an appointment here: https://www.implantdentalbellevue.com or call Bellevue Implant & Cosmetic Dentistry at (425) 249-9186 for an appointment in our Bellevue office.

Check out what others are saying about our dental services on Yelp: General Dentist in Bellevue, WA.

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