What Happens if a Cavity is Left Untreated?

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What Happens if a Cavity is Left Untreated?

One of the worst things you can get to hear is that you have a cavity. It can be embarrassing to know that you were not careful enough with your dental care to have ended up with a cavity. Cavities come with pain, but when it’s bearable, one would often put it off in the midst of a busy schedule. While people may take it very lightly, cavities can lead to serious issues if left untreated. What happens if your cavity is left untreated? Here’s what you need to know.

What are Cavities?

In basic and simplified terms, cavities can be described as tooth decay. When you aren’t brushing your teeth regularly and properly, the bacteria present on the tooth surface can move below the surface. Moreover, if your diet is heavy in carbohydrates and sugars, bacteria present on the teeth surface will take the carbs and sugar and release acids that can be harmful to the enamel. When the enamel below the surface of the teeth is worn down due to the acid released, it can give rise to cavities.

Symptoms of Cavities

Symptoms of Cavity

If you think you have a tooth cavity, here are some of the symptoms you may experience.

  • You experience a sudden toothache. 
  • Experiencing pain when eating or crunching on something hard. 
  • Sudden sensitivity in the teeth.
  • Extreme sensitivity to cold or hot things in the mouth, even the air temperature can cause pain. 
  • Dark spots are seen either on or between the teeth. 

How Are Cavities Treated?

While there are several ways to treat cavities like fillings, fluoride treatments, crowns, tooth extractions, and root canals, the primary method often used is given below.

  • Before starting the procedure of filling, the dentist will give a local anesthetic to ensure you don’t experience pain. 
  • The dentist will then clear decay from the teeth and fill in the gap using a material to stop decay in the future. 
  • The material used for filling may be any metal ranging from zinc, silver, and gold to porcelain and natural-looking resin. Basically, a material that won’t be too noticeable when you’re smiling or talking.

What Happens if Cavities are Untreated?

If you miss out on your regular dental visits and let the cavity go untreated, several problems can emerge including the ones described below.

1. Pain 

If you leave your cavity untreated, it can cause greater pain over time, being more painful when being used. In this case, you may experience a sudden and recurring pain when chewing, biting, or eating. This pain is an evident sign that you need to visit the dentist to prevent further complications.

2. Increased Sensitivity

Amongst the initial signs that you experience, is that your tooth becomes extremely sensitive to cold or hot temperatures. You may not want to take a cup of hot coffee anymore or drink a cold beverage. If your cavity is left untreated, your sensitivity may become more severe, warning your body that the tooth cavity needs to be addressed almost immediately.

3. Swelling

If you do not treat your cavity on time, the bacteria may travel down to the pulp of the tooth, thus leading to a dental abscess. This abscess can result in swelling. Again, your body is warning you at this stage to visit the dentist before it gets too late. The inflammation of the cavity area is what leads to swelling in the mouth.

4. Extraction or a Root Canal may be Required

If the above issues are not addressed, and the cavity gets out of hand being left untreated for too long, you may need a root canal treatment, or ultimately, a tooth extraction. A root canal is a method that helps you retain the tooth without needing a complete extraction. Tooth extraction tends to be the last resort when the damage is beyond repair. In this case, the tooth with the cavity will be removed entirely. This, however, tends to be the last resort when all other methods of treatment have failed. So, it’s best to consider the signs beforehand and get treatment when necessary.

5. Making the Other Teeth Weak

Another thing a cavity can do if left untreated is that it can spread to the surrounding teeth and make them brittle and weak. While the tooth with a cavity will rot, decay, and crack, it will also cause other teeth to become weak and brittle over time. 

6. Other Complications 

If the tooth cavities are left untreated, they can lead to several health issues over time. You may experience these complications if your tooth cavities aren’t treated in due time.

  • Gum and tooth infection 
  • Radiating, sharp pain 
  • Difficulty in smiling and chewing 
  • Mouth and cheek tenderness 
  • Redness and swelling 
  • Increased risk of breaking or fracturing teeth 
  • Abscess of the tooth

7. Death

In extreme cases, tooth cavities can lead to death if the infection becomes too severe and spreads to the body. If the infection travels to the other parts of the body, the results can be fatal. Thankfully enough, cavity treatment today is very accessible and common.

Tips to Prevent Cavities from Occurring

prevent cavities

While teeth cavities can cause serious problems if left untreated, you can stop cavities from forming in the first place to avoid such complications. By taking care of a few things, and a few mouth cleaning exercises, you can keep yourself safe from cavities. Here are a few tips to take to prevent cavities.

  • Brushing your teeth every day, before hitting the bed, and after every meal.
  • Adjust your snacks to the meals taken in the day.
  • Try using fluoride to strengthen the teeth. 
  • Make sure to visit the dentist regularly for checkups.
  • Ask your dentist about a sealant for tooth protection. 


While cavities can be a very common issue, it does not mean that they are something to be taken lightly. If you reach the dentist in time for treatment, cavities can be dealt with using a simple filling that protects you from further cavities. However, if not treated in time, it can lead to severe consequences like needing a root canal or extraction. In extreme, yet rare cases, it can lead to death if the infection spreads in the body. So, be sure to visit the dentist for cavity treatment before it gets too late.


Author Since:  July 5, 2021

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