Category Archives: can i wait to get a cavity treated

How long can I wait to get my cavity treated?

woman getting a dentist exam and teeth cleaningLife gets busy. And expensive. Which is why it can be tempting to let a cavity go without filling it. Or getting any treatment. But it’s a bad idea. Here’s why.

Cause of a cavity

A cavity is really the product of a perfect storm involving bacteria, food, saliva and the resulting acid. Bacteria in your mouth combine with food that sits on your teeth and creates plaque which includes acid. The acid in the plaque eats holes in your tooth (tooth decay) called cavities.  Patients can usually tell they have a cavity because of pain, sensitive teeth, or can feel a hole in their teeth.

How a cavity is treated

A cavity can be treated several different ways; the extent of the damage and location of the damage dictates what treatment is used. Two of the most common cavity treatments are:

  • Filling. For cavities that haven’t affected the tooth root or pulp, a filling is usually the best option. During a filling, the dentist clears out the damage and decay and fills in the area.
  • Root canal. Root canals, another common cavity treatment, are commonly needed when the decay has spread to the pulp or tooth root. When a root canal is done, the infected tissue is cleaned out, the area disinfected, and the void is filled in. A temporary filling is applied temporarily until the permanent crown is ready. The last phase is placing the permanent crown on the tooth (for this reason, schedule two appointments for a root canal).

Why you need to treat a cavity ASAP

You don’t always feel a cavity, and often that can make it very tempting to wait to take care of it. Unfortunately, putting off taking care of a cavity can cause more problems in the long run.

  • Your one-tooth cavity can turn into bigger (and more expensive) problem. A cavity is decay, and decay continues until it is removed. Delaying treatment can lead to more cavities and more decay. If the decay spreads to the pulp or tooth root, a more extensive treatment may be required (think root canal versus filling), costing you more time and money for the procedure.  
  • A painless cavity can turn into an inconvenient dental emergency. There’s another compelling reason for preventative care: a cavity that doesn’t hurt now can cause significant pain later—and possibly at the worse time. To keep the pain away and avoid the inevitable emergency holiday or after hours dental appointment, schedule regular dental cleanings and exams.