What happens if you don’t treat a cavity?

Exposed to the food and drink we consume, and other environmental hazards such as oral medications, nicotine smoke and more, it is safe to say that our teeth go through a lot during our lifetime.

Looking after them by brushing and flossing them daily and visiting our dentist regularly are drummed into us from a young age. Nevertheless, problems with our teeth are virtually inevitable, with one of the most common being dental cavities.

What are dental cavities, and what causes them?

Dental cavities also referred to as dental caries, are areas of decay that form on the teeth. These occur when the bacteria that live on our teeth come into contact with carbohydrates in the food and drink that we consume. The bacteria feed on these carbohydrates and produces acid. This acid then combines with the bacteria as well as any food debris and saliva in our mouth to form plaque, which is a sticky substance that clings to our teeth.

It is plaque acids that are responsible for eroding away the outer layer of enamel on our teeth and exposing the softer, more sensitive inside layers.

What treatment is available for cavities?

Treatment for dental cavities often depends on the extent of decay that the patient is experiencing. Early stages of decay can normally be treated with a cavity filling. This is when any bacteria or debris is cleared out of the hole in the tooth, and it is filled with an artificial material, usually silver amalgam or white porcelain/resin, so that the decay cannot penetrate any further.

However, if the decay is substantial, then a cavity filling may not be possible. In this case, you may be recommended for a dental crown. This is an artificial tooth-shaped cap, usually made from porcelain, that sits over the top of the affected tooth. This is put in place after the decayed part of the tooth has been removed so that damage cannot spread.

What happens when a cavity is left untreated?

As with all dental problems, the sooner you seek treatment, the less likely you are to suffer from unpleasant side effects that require highly invasive treatments. If a cavity is left untreated, it is guaranteed to get worse. The decayed part of the tooth will spread, both outwards across the enamel and deeper inside towards the root of the tooth.

If the tooth root is affected, it will compromise the flow of blood and nutrients to the tooth and eventually, the tooth will die, turn black, and fall out. This will leave an unattractive gap in your smile. Depending on where the decay is located, it could potentially affect your teeth to function properly.

Decay can also spread to the soft tissues that support your teeth. This is known as periodontal disease, and it is also known to threaten the health and viability of your teeth. Patients who suffer from extensive periodontal disease find that they experience problems that include:

  • Gum recession. This is where the gums pull away from the bottom of the tooth, exposing the root.
  • Gums that bleed, feel sore and emit a bad odor.
  • Dental abscesses and infections. These infections can spread to the jaw bone, causing it to deteriorate. Any infection can also enter the bloodstream and travel around your body to your major organs, causing further health problems.

What can I do to prevent dental cavities?

There is no sure-fire way of guaranteeing that you won’t get cavities during your lifetime, but brushing and flossing daily and visiting your dentist for regular check-ups and an annual professional cleaning can certainly help protect your teeth for longer. For the prevention of cavities, attending all of your check-up appointments will help us keep a close eye on your teeth and ensure you get treatment promptly should a cavity begin to develop.

Some patients opt for a process known as receiving dental sealants. This is when a thin coating of a liquid sealant is painted on to the teeth which will help protect against tooth decay until it starts to erode. Most patients find that sealants can protect their teeth from decay for up to 10 years. They can be applied to all teeth, although many people choose to only seal their back teeth which are more prone to decay due to their extensive chewing area and natural depressions and grooves.

If you would like more information about treating and diagnosing dental cavities, call PGA Dentistry today at 561-627-8666.