Ignoring a cavity is never a good idea. Cavities progress in stages, and if caught early, a cavity may not even need a filling. However, the problem with tooth decay is that it’s generally not painful until the cavity grows large enough to involve the inner nerves of the teeth .
What this means is that your cavity may take several months or even longer to show symptoms, which makes your regular dental checkups all the more important. But what happens if you either don’t know about existing tooth decay in your mouth, or you ignore it?
Your Tooth May Break or Crack
Cavities don’t go away on their own. They continue to get larger or deeper as time goes on. As the decay affects more of your tooth, the cavity can get large enough that it causes your tooth to break or split, permanently altering its structure and compromising its health. Decayed teeth are more susceptible to cracks or other damage than healthy teeth!
The width and depth of the cavity can make your tooth more likely to crack . A cracked tooth will need more extensive treatment than a simple filling—you may need dental bonding, a root canal, or even an extraction.
You May Need a Root Canal
Once the inner nerve tissue of your tooth is affected by the cavity, you can experience pain, an infection, or both. Once your cavity has become large enough to involve the inner tissue, you will need either a root canal or an extraction to fully address the problem. A filling typically won’t be able to resolve the decay at this point.
If you continue to ignore the cavity past this point, you could develop a painful dental abscess, which is an area of infection underneath the gumline. While root canal therapy could potentially still save your tooth at this point, you may have only one other option.
Your Tooth May Need to Be Pulled
For some people, a tooth just won’t be able to be fixed because of the severity of the cavity . Not even root canal therapy can save a tooth that’s too far gone. This is why getting treatment for your cavity sooner rather than later is so essential, as it can prevent a tooth extraction.
Once your tooth is extracted, you’ll need to discuss replacement options with your dentist, as leaving a gap in your mouth can cause your remaining teeth to shift. Depending on the position of the missing tooth, it could also potentially cause problems with speaking or chewing.
If you know you have existing tooth decay, always follow up with your dentist to get the cavity fixed as soon as possible. It may be so small that a fluoride treatment will do the trick, or you may need a filling. Either way, fillings are less invasive and less expensive than other treatment options once decay has progressed—so never ignore cavities!