If you suspect you have a cavity, our article I Think I Have a Cavity – What Now? explains some of the symptoms. If you already know you have a cavity, your next question might be “Do I Need to Get My Cavity Filled?”
Most people would like to avoid getting a cavity filled. But there are many important reasons why you should contact a dentist to get it filled as soon as possible.
Don’t Let These Fears Stop You from Getting Your Cavity Filled.
There are two main reasons why you might ask “Do I need to get my cavity filled?” You may worry that:
- The procedure will be very painful, or
- You won’t be able to afford it. (See How Much Does it Cost to Get a Cavity Filled?)
But leaving a tooth untreated will result in more pain and even more expensive procedures as time goes on.
Review: What is a Cavity?
Cavities, or “dental caries” are caused by decay that eats away at a tooth’s enamel, creating a hole. That hole is the cavity. Once you have one, it will not go away on its own. It will grow and become worse.
One of the symptoms of a cavity is pain and sensitivity. It is understandable that some may fear the pain of having it filled. When filling your cavity, a dentist will use an anesthetic to numb the area.
You may feel some discomfort during the procedure. But once it is done, the pain you felt from the cavity will be gone. You can read more about the procedure in this article: How Painful is it to Get a Cavity Filled?.
Getting your cavity filled as soon as you discover it can help save you money. As time goes on, the cavity can get bigger or spread to more teeth. It will take a dentist longer to do the repairs, and therefore cost more.
If the damage becomes worse, you may need a crown or root canal instead of a filling. These are much more complicated procedures and will be more expensive.
Not Filling a Cavity Can Be More Painful and Expensive
If you’re still wondering “Do I need to get my cavity filled?”, you need to be aware of what can happen if you don’t. If you ignore a cavity, the hole will continue to get bigger and deeper.
And while cavities themselves aren’t “contagious,” the bacteria in them can spread to teeth nearby. If you do not take care of the first cavity promptly, you could end up with two cavities to deal with.
Eventually, the cavity will wear down the enamel in that spot until it gets to the next layer of your tooth. This layer is called dentin.
Dentin is much softer than enamel. Once the cavity has reached this softer part of the tooth, there is no stopping it. When it has gotten this far down, a dentist may not be able to fill it in the same way as a smaller cavity. You may need a dental crown. A crown is a cap that fits over the entire tooth and will cost more than a typical composite filling.
What’s at the Center of a Tooth?
If you are still asking “Do I need to get my cavity filled?” let’s talk about the next phase. If the cavity makes its way through the dentin, it will spread down to the next layer of the tooth, called the pulp chamber.
The pulp chamber is filled with blood vessels and nerves. If the cavity reaches this area, the toothache can be much worse than it was for a small cavity in the enamel. You may need a root canal.
What Exactly is a Root Canal?
When the tooth decay’s bacteria reach the pulp chamber, it can cause an infection known as an abscess. Abscesses can be terribly painful. You may need a root canal procedure. A root canal is more complicated and takes longer than filling a small cavity.
A root canal procedure is done on a tooth that has become infected. During the root canal, the dentist removes the nerve and the pulp from inside the tooth. The hole is then filled. Although a dentist will administer anesthesia, like with a small cavity, the procedure can be very unpleasant. Because it takes the dentist more time and effort, it is a more expensive treatment option.
The Last Resort if You Choose Not to Get Your Cavity Filled
You may still have doubts about getting your cavity filled. Remember that it will not get better on its own. If you wait too long, the damage to the tooth may become so severe that even a root canal won’t fix it.
For teeth that are damaged beyond repair, the last resort is to extract the tooth. Pulling the tooth will, of course, stop the pain caused by the cavity, but it will also leave a gap in your smile. You can choose to get dentures or implants, but those are even more costly options.
Do I Need to Get My Cavity Filled? The Answer is “Yes!”
As you can see, if you have a cavity, it is best to visit a dentist as soon as possible. The cost and slight discomfort of having your cavity filled is a much better option than the pain and expense of leaving it alone.