When Cavities Go Undetected and Untreated

There is a reason that dentists recommend seeing you every six months. If you think that just because you don’t have any pain then you must be doing a good job with your dental health, think again. Many cavities do not produce any symptoms whatsoever and even large cavities can exist without discomfort. However, leaving untreated and undetected tooth decay in your mouth for a long period of time can result in very painful (and costly) dental complications.

Your routine dental checkup can be used to detect cavities at their earliest stages and treat them before it further damages the tooth or the surrounding gum tissue. Without a professional cavity treatment that includes a dental filling, an area of decay can grow progressively larger over time. This will result in decay on the entire crown portion of the tooth and it could break off and require an artificial crown. Untreated decay will continue to cause havoc by also destroying nearby enamel until it has eroded into the tooth chamber. Once the nerve of the tooth has become infected, an abscess will form and it is then that you will realize the damage. Abscesses are very painful and you will be facing a root canal instead of a dental filling. Otherwise, the tooth will need to be extracted.

Did you know that early cavity detection and treatment also prevents the decay from spreading to other teeth in your mouth? Yes, even a small cavity can “jump” to the adjacent tooth. Instead of one filling, you will need two teeth restored.

The statement stands true that “dental care is not expensive, but neglect is.” The next time you think you are keeping up with your dental health just fine on your own, remember the consequences of letting a (painless) cavity go untreated.

When your dentist tells you that you have a cavity, you may not be inclined to have it treated right away unless it’s actually causing you some discomfort. Some cavities have absolutely no symptoms, no matter how large they are. Other people may find that even the tiniest area of decalcification causes some sensitivity. If your dentist identifies an area of decay in its early stages, it’s best to have it treated as soon as possible.

Early treatment prevents complications due to the decay becoming progressively larger. Large areas of decay can cause the entire crown portion of the tooth to break off or need a crown. Untreated decay will continue to cause destruction of nearby enamel in the same tooth, until it has severely broken down or eroded into the nerve chamber. Once the nerve of a tooth becomes infected, it will abscess and typically cause severe pain. By this point, a filling is no longer effective treatment, and the tooth will require root canal therapy in order to prevent extraction.

Early treatment prevents decay from spreading to adjacent teeth. Even a very small cavity between the teeth can “jump” to the next tooth. These areas are in close proximity to one another, and any lack of hygiene between the teeth (such as flossing) will encourage the decay to spread even faster. Instead of one tooth to have restored, you’ll have two.

Early treatment by your dentist keeps costs lower. Small fillings obviously cost less to have performed than a large filling, or even a root canal and crown. The longer the decay goes untreated, the bigger and more expensive it becomes to treat.

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