Ignoring your tooth cavity for too long? This is what can happen

Needless to say, regular dental checkups are a must. But if you have a tooth cavity, it's totally a bad idea to ignore it.
signs of poor oral health
Guard your teeth against decay. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr. Bipin R. Upadhyay Published: 5 Apr 2022, 12:10 pm IST
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Oral illnesses are a serious public health concern in many nations, and they have a long-term harmful influence on people. Oral disorders cause pain and discomfort, as well as social isolation and a loss of self-esteem. They are also frequently linked to more major health problems. However, there is no need to suffer: the majority of oral health problems are usually preventable and treatable in their early stages. You should especially not ignore a tooth cavity.

What is the cause of a tooth cavity?

Teeth are made up of mineral complexes including calcium and phosphates. When you eat sticky food (which includes fermentable carbohydrates), the bacteria present in the plaque (a biofilm adhered to the teeth) ferments the sticky carbs producing acids as byproducts. When these acids come in prolonged contact with the teeth, the teeth start losing the minerals and forms cavities. Cavities initially are chalky white when dried and slowly turn brown to black. As soon as a cavity is formed it starts trapping more food and more acids are produced and a vicious cycle is formed which leads to deepening of the cavities and further symptoms like sensitivity and toothache.

Most initial cavities do not pain or have any other symptoms and can be just seen as discoloured or brown to black spots on the tooth. So, a careful self-examination and regular dental checkup can help find out such cavities. Treat them early by cleaning the cavity and placing a suitable restoration.

Also Read: 10 rules for strong and sparkling white teeth

What will happen when you don’t treat the cavity?

If you happen to ignore the black spots, they will eventually cavitate and start giving sensitivity to hot and cold foods, bad breath, and pain which may be occasional initially. Sometimes, the pain can be very severe and be sleep-disturbing too.

At such a time, you will need to visit a dentist and get an X-ray of the tooth done. The dentist will view the X-ray and advice if the tooth can be salvaged or needs to be removed. If the tooth can be salvaged, you will need a root canal treatment.

The procedure of cleansing the canals that make up the tooth’s root is known as root canal therapy. A root canal treatment is a technique that allows a patient to maintain a tooth that would otherwise have to be extracted. When the pulp tissue (nerve) inside the tooth becomes diseased and irreparably damaged, this type of treatment is required.

tooth decay
Don’t ignore tooth decay. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

If you still take over the counter painkillers and don’t visit the dentist, the infection within the tooth can spread to the bone and you may get a swelling (abscess) that can be small (just near the gums) to large (seen on the face cheeks or below the eyes and lower jaw).

At this stage, it becomes more difficult to save the tooth as the infection spreads. Your dentist may take an X-ray and might even drain the infection under a local anesthetic injection.

If the tooth can be saved or needs to be removed, the doctor will give you a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines and reassess after a few days.

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When do you need an extraction after a tooth cavity?

After a thorough assessment, if your dentist has suggested getting your tooth extracted, it is probably due to one of the following reasons:

* Your tooth has way more infection than that can be managed by a Root Canal Treatment.

* You might have lost the entire crown height due to decay and the remaining tooth structure might not be sufficient to support a root canal treatment and a crown.

* Your tooth might be anatomically different (might be having curved or calcified canals or blockages in the canals)

* You would have not complied with the appointments schedule given by your dentist.

tooth pain
Try to understand why your tooth pains. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Why are regular dental checkups important?

Dental health varies from person to person. Nonetheless, even if your mouth is in perfect shape, you should see a dentist once or twice a year, so that you may have your teeth cleaned professionally on a regular basis and preserve good oral health. Who doesn’t want pearly white teeth!

The best way to ensure a healthy mouth is to follow a balanced diet and regularly visit the dentist while maintaining your oral care routine with twice-daily brushing and once-daily flossing.

Flossing is largely neglected as it requires manual dexterity to do it properly. Nowadays, water flossers have become more popular which has solved the issue of skills required for manual flossing. Protect yourself against problems that can advance quickly by discussing these questions with your dental professional.

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About the Author

Dr Bipin Upadhyay (MDS, Oral Physician, and Maxillofacial Radiologist) Associate Professor and Head of Department of Dentistry K.J. Somaiya Medical College, Mumbai ...Read More

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