What Is a Cavity & How Long Can You Ignore It?

Written by Tolley Dental

May 24, 2023

Cavities can cause significant damage to your teeth over time and can even lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Due to the acid produced by bacteria, cavities will slowly erode away at the enamel of your teeth, making them more prone to cracking or breaking.

Cavities can be treated with dental fillings or crowns, and ignoring them can have serious consequences for your dental health and overall well-being. In this article, we will explore what exactly a cavity is, how it develops over time, and why you should not ignore one for too long.

What is a Cavity?

A dental cavity is caused by bacteria in the mouth that forms an acid that eats away at the enamel and dentin of a tooth. This happens when the sugar from food accumulates on the teeth surface and attracts these bacteria, which then feed off of it and produce acid as a byproduct.

As they continue to do this over time, they create small holes in the surface of teeth known as cavities. Untreated cavities will grow larger and deeper until they reach the innermost layer of teeth known as pulp which contains nerve endings and blood vessels.

The most common symptom of a cavity is tooth sensitivity. This can range from mild to severe depending on the size and location of the cavity. Other common symptoms include pain when eating, discoloration of teeth, and bad breath. Cavities can also cause more serious problems such as infection or abscesses if left untreated for too long.

Causes of Cavities

The main cause of cavities is poor oral hygiene. When you don’t brush and floss properly, plaque that contains acid-producing bacteria can build up on the surface of your teeth. This acid gradually erodes away at the tooth enamel, creating a cavity. Eating sugary foods can also increase the amount of plaque that builds up on teeth and exacerbate the problem.

Other causes of cavities include dry mouth, acidic foods, certain medications, and age. Older adults tend to have weaker tooth enamel which makes them more susceptible to tooth decay and cavities. Additionally, children between the ages of 5 and 7 are particularly prone to cavities due to their developing teeth.

What Will Happen if You Don’t Treat a Cavity?

If you do not treat a cavity, it can cause long-term damage to your tooth structure and lead to more serious problems. As the cavity continues to worsen, it will eventually reach the innermost layer of your tooth which contains nerve endings and blood vessels.

At this point, you may experience severe pain and sensitivity each time you eat or drink something hot or cold. Additionally, the bacteria in the cavity can spread to other areas of the mouth and cause infection or an abscess.

You should not ignore a cavity for any length of time. Seeing a dentist at the first sign of a cavity is the best course of action as they will be able to diagnose and treat it before it gets worse.

Recommended Dental Treatments to Fix a Cavity

#1. Cavity Filling

The process involves removing the decayed area of the tooth and replacing it with a material such as an amalgam, composite resin, porcelain, or gold. During the procedure, the dentist will use specialized drills and other tools to clean out the decayed part of the tooth before filling it with one of these materials. This restores the normal shape and strength of the tooth as well as prevents bad bacteria from entering it.

#2. Root Canal Therapy

Root canal treatment is an effective way to save a severely damaged or decayed tooth. During a root canal procedure, the dentist will remove the infected pulp from inside the tooth and seal it off with a filling material. This is then followed by placing a crown over the tooth to protect it from further damage.

#3. Tooth Extraction

A tooth extraction is a last resort for treating a cavity if it is too severe for the tooth to be saved. During the procedure, the dentist will use specialized tools to extract the decayed tooth from its socket and may also recommend replacing it with an artificial solution such as a dental implant or bridge.

Oral Hygiene Practices To Prevent Tooth Cavities

Here are some tips to help you maintain good dental hygiene and prevent cavities.

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes each time, making sure to reach all surfaces of the teeth.
  • Floss your teeth once a day to remove any food particles and plaque that may be stuck between them.
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks as they can cause plaque buildup on your teeth.
  • Have regular check-ups with your dentist so they can assess the health of your teeth and recommend any necessary treatments.

The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups

Regular visits to a dentist are essential for maintaining and protecting your oral health, as well as preventing the occurrence of more serious dental issues such as cavities and gum disease. During your regular checkup, your dentist will perform a thorough examination of your teeth and gums in order to detect any signs of decay or damage that may have occurred since your last visit.

They may also recommend preventive treatments such as dental cleanings, fluoride treatments, dental sealants, and oral hygiene instructions to help you prevent cavities from forming in the future.

Guard Your Teeth Against Decay and Cavities, Visit Tolley Dental Today!

Regular checkups are essential for maintaining a healthy smile, so make sure to schedule regular appointments with your dentist. At Tolley Dental, our team of experienced professionals offers comprehensive dental services for all ages, from preventive care and routine cleanings to more advanced treatments such as root canals, dental implants, and more. We are dedicated to helping you maintain a healthy smile for life. Contact us today to book an appointment!