How Long Can a Cavity Go Untreated

How Long Can a Cavity Go Untreated?

Cavities should get proper treatment but don’t fall under emergency treatments unless they cause a lot of pain that can’t wait until you can get to the dentist.

It takes a while for cavities to develop. The time you plan to get treatment for them depends on what stage they are end. Cavities that are in the early stages can wait longer than those that are in the throes of tooth decay.

How Long Can You Wait?

The typical answer to how long you can wait to get treatment for a cavity is a year. However, that isn’t hard as it depends on each case. It also depends on how long the cavity has been forming and the damage it’s caused.

However, it is still recommended to get treatment for cavities early on because some can be reversed if caught early enough.

A Cavity’s 5 Stages

A cavity will go through five stages until it reaches the serious stage of tooth decay. Here is a look at each stage.

First Stage Demineralization

The first stage of a cavity is the demineralization, which weakens the tooth enamel. The first symptom of this stage is little white spots on your teeth. These spots are under the enamel but can be spotted when you manage your oral care routine.

It’s important to see a dentist during this stage because a cavity in the first stage can be reversed. That means you won’t need a filling!

Treatment for cavity reversal involves remineralizing the enamel. This is done with a fluoride treatment in the dental office. Typically, you have to ask for this treatment as it isn’t automatically included in dental exams. You would have to pay additionally for a fluoride treatment.

Getting a fluoride treatment would be worth the additional cost to stop and reverse a cavity. It would likely be less than getting a filling and would go a long way to keeping your tooth from decaying.

Second Stage: Decaying Enamel

Tooth decay starts under the enamel’s surface. It will start to break through the enamel in this stage. You can’t reverse a cavity once it has reached stage two.

Third Stage: Into the Dentin

Your teeth have what is called a dentin layer below the enamel. It’s a soft layer that the cavity starts to break into after it gets through the enamel. This is considered an advanced stage of a cavity.

This is a stage where you may feel some tooth pain but the decay hasn’t reached the tooth root. You will need to get a filling but won’t need a root canal at this stage.

Fourth Stage: Painful Decay

This stage of a cavity is when the infection has gone down into the tooth root and has infected the pulp. The pulp is where nerves are found, so this means intense pain. The only treatment option for this stage to save the tooth is a root canal. You can also have the tooth extracted but it’s best to try to save the tooth.

Fifth Stage: Abscess

Infection always spreads and the only place it can go after it reaches the pulp is through the tip of the tooth root into the bone and tissue. This results in the area swelling and becoming extremely painful.

Neglecting a cavity in this stage is also bad for your health because this is an infection. It can spread to other body parts. Abscesses in a tooth can be fatal if it moves into sepsis.

You must get this resolved quickly when a cavity moves into this stage. At this point, you probably will need the tooth extracted so the dentist can clean the infected area. It can result in bone loss and the dentist may need to do a bone graft, especially if you want to replace the tooth with an implant.

Cavities won’t go away and can’t be ignored for a long period. Insurance covers cavity procedures, especially earlier interventions. Root canals will involve placing a crown on the tooth and some insurance only pays for part of the crown.

It pays to get the cavity resolved sooner rather than later. The earlier you have a cavity remedied, the less it will cost.

Those who think they have a cavity should call to book an appointment for an exam. Our dentist can tell you whether you have a cavity and the stage it’s in. It may be possible to reverse it. We want to help you keep your teeth for life so call for an appointment today!


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