- March 15, 2020
Avoiding cavities is the goal of adopting a good oral health regime. But, even with consistent daily dental care and regular visits to your dentist, it is likely that cavities will happen in your lifetime. What happens when cavities are left untreated?
What Are Cavities?
The cause of cavities, or dental caries, is from the tooth decay of your tooth enamel (the hard, outer layer of your teeth). Tooth decay happens because plaque forms on teeth after eating foods or drinks that contain sugar. The bacteria in the plaque produce acid, which eats away at tooth enamel.
Cavities are the holes in your teeth where the acid has attacked the tooth enamel. Pit and fissure caries are found mostly on the chewing surfaces of your back teeth, or the backside of your front teeth. Smooth surface caries form mostly where two teeth touch or along the gumline.
Many times, people are not aware that cavities exist until the problem is detected in x-rays. Small, early stage cavities do not typically cause pain and headaches associated with tooth decay. Cavities that have progressed further may cause individuals to experience:
- Toothaches or general tooth pain.
- Pain when eating or drinking.
- Swollen or inflamed gums around the damaged tooth.
- Bad breath.
So, if some cavities are not identified until the dentist discovers them, what happens when they are left untreated?
Smaller cavities may not need to be filled but can grow into larger caries if they are not addressed with fluoride treatments or sealants. This is one of the reasons bi-annual visits to your dentist are critical.
If small caries are allowed to grow larger, serious consequences can occur. The best-case scenario is that there is still enough of the tooth left to fill to stop further spread. If not enough tooth material is left, you may need a root canal which involves the removal of the soft tissues and pulp inside the tooth. That space is then filled and sealed.
In more serious cases, the damage of a tooth is so severe where it is no longer treatable. Instead, it is extracted and replaced with a dental implant.
The good news is it is possible to reverse tooth decay before too much damage occurs. The process includes changing your diet to reduce the amount of sugar that can produce damage-causing acid in your mouth, drinking more water, following a proper daily oral health regime and visiting your dentist two times per year.