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Oral Health 101: The Health Risks of Untreated Tooth Cavities

Tooth cavities are one of the most common oral health problems. They are essentially holes in the tooth surface that occur due to the erosion of the tooth enamel, which is the tooth’s hard outer layer. While tooth cavities can occur at any age, they are more prevalent in children and young adults.

The interaction between bacteria, food, and tooth structure causes tooth cavities. When we eat sugary or starchy foods, the bacteria in our mouths feed on the remnants, producing acid as a byproduct. This acid can erode the enamel of our teeth, making them more susceptible to cavities. Poor oral hygiene, such as not brushing or flossing regularly, can also contribute to cavities. However, cavities are more complex than most realize because they can cause extensive damage to the teeth.

What Happens If Tooth Cavities Are Left Untreated?

If cavities are left untreated, the following may occur:

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is the gradual destruction of the tooth’s outer layer, known as the enamel, caused by the bacteria in dental plaque. If left untreated, a cavity can grow and spread to other parts of the tooth, further destroying the tooth structure. The decay can eventually reach the inner layer of the tooth, known as the dentin, which is softer and more vulnerable to decay. Once the decay reaches the dentin, the cavity will progress more quickly, leading to more severe tooth damage.

Teeth Structure Complications

If a cavity is left untreated, it can lead to complications with the tooth’s structure. As decay progresses, it can weaken the tooth and lead to fractures or cracks in the tooth. This can cause pain and sensitivity and require more extensive treatment, such as a root canal or tooth extraction.

Dry Socket

A dry socket is a painful condition that can occur after tooth extraction. It happens when the blood clot that forms in the socket where the tooth was removed becomes dislodged or dissolves before the wound can heal. This exposes the nerves and bone in the socket, causing a sharp, throbbing pain that can radiate to the ear and neck. It can also lead to bad breath and an unpleasant taste in the mouth. A dry socket can be treated with pain medication and a medicated dressing placed in the socket to promote healing.

Pulp Exposure

When a cavity is left untreated, it can progress to the point where it reaches the pulp of the tooth – the innermost part of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels. Pulp exposure can also occur due to trauma or injury to the tooth. When the pulp is exposed, it can cause severe pain and sensitivity, leading to infection and the eventual loss of the tooth.


Infections can occur in the teeth, gums, and surrounding tissues if there is a cavity. They are usually caused by bacteria that invade the oral cavity. Symptoms of an oral infection may include pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected area, as well as fever and swollen lymph nodes. Infections can be treated with antibiotics, drainage of pus, and other measures, depending on the severity and location of the infection.

Treating Your Cavities

Cavities are treated by removing the decayed portion of the tooth and filling the cavity with a dental filling material. This helps to prevent further decay and infection from developing. Sometimes, if the decay has spread too far, a root canal may be necessary to remove the infected pulp and save the tooth. In severe cases, tooth extraction may be necessary to prevent the spread of infection to other teeth and tissues. Regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing daily, can help prevent cavities and infections from developing in the first place.


Cavities are among the most common dental problems but are also preventable and treatable. Treatment will depend on the cavity’s severity, so one must consult with a dentist to know their options. This way, they can avoid complications and preserve their oral health.

If you are looking for an emergency dentist, Manassas Smiles can help you! We provide comprehensive dental treatments to our patients to ensure their teeth are cared for. Schedule an appointment today!

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