Nearly one in three adults will have a cavity at some point in their lives. Cavities may be physically small, but they can pack a powerful punch when it comes to your oral health. If you don’t see your dentist regularly, you may not catch a cavity until it causes you problems. Seeking treatment for a cavity is vital. Without treatment, cavities can lead to significant damage to your teeth and health.
The Start of a Problem
Cavities are areas of tooth enamel that are damaged or weakened due to bacteria. There are several reasons why you might develop cavities. However, the most common cause is poor oral hygiene. When you don’t brush or floss your teeth regularly, plaque will build on your teeth and below your gum line. The bacteria will feed on the food particles from your diet and create an acid. This acid will damage your enamel.
Cavities often start small. In fact, they may not cause any noticeable symptoms initially. This allows them to progress silently. In their early stages, cavities can cause discoloration of your enamel. You may see a small black or brown spot on your tooth. Additionally, white spots are an indicator of potential cavities.
Tooth Structure Under Siege
A cavity begins by damaging your enamel. Your enamel is the protective outer layer of your tooth. It helps prevent bacteria and other harmful substances from entering and damaging your tooth. As a cavity advances, it will form tiny holes or pits in your tooth.
While the cavity deepens, it penetrates the dentin layer. This layer is softer than your enamel. It contains tubules that connect the enamel to the pulp, transmitting sensory information to your nerves. Damage to his layer can cause increased sensitivity and discomfort.
If left untreated, cavities can reach the tooth’s inner pulp. The pulp houses the nerves and blood vessels. This can also lead to intense pain and infection if the cavity reaches this layer.
One of the many complications of a cavity is a toothache. This can range from mild sensitivity to extreme pain. The larger the cavity, the more likely you will feel greater pain. Advanced cavities can disrupt your daily life and cause severe discomfort.
Without proper treatment, cavities can also cause infection or an abscess. An abscess is a pocket of pus that can develop in your tooth or gums. Cavities that reach the pulp can be painful and even dangerous. Infections in the mouth can spread to other areas of the body. As a result, they require prompt dental treatment.
Finally, severe cavities that result in extensive damage may necessitate tooth extraction. This means that your dentist will need to remove the infected tooth. This can impact your smile and oral function.
Beyond the Mouth: Cavities and Systemic Health
Cavities aren’t limited to the mouth. Without treatment, they can affect your overall health due to the oral-systemic connection. Chronic oral inflammation, often associated with untreated cavities, has also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.