What Happens If You Leave a Cavity Untreated? - Smile Dental Center

tooth sensitivity to hot beverageHealth concerns like pain, swelling and pus should not be ignored. Inside your mouth, these symptoms often indicate a cavity in varying stages of decay. The progression of decay may cause an infection to spread to multiple teeth, your jawbone or blood. Rather than leaving an untreated cavity to fester, here’s what you should keep in mind.

What Is a Cavity?

In the simplest terms, a cavity is decay stemming from the acids created by the bacteria in your mouth. Often a result of negligent dental care or eating sugary foods, plaque and biofilms form on the surface of your teeth, increasing exposure risks to the acid released.

Over time, this progression eats through the enamel to the root, where it can infect the pulp and create an abscess. Swelling, pain and visible pus all signal this development.

A dentist may request a filling or perform a root canal to extract the infected pulp. A crown closes off your tooth and protects what’s left of its structure. In extreme cases, the full tooth is pulled and an implant may be recommended to fill the empty space.

What Happens When You Don’t Treat a Cavity?

When a cavity goes unaddressed, you can experience a combination of the following symptoms.

Greater Sensitivity

Increased sensitivity to extreme hot and cold temperatures can prevent you from enjoying certain foods and beverages.

Visual Changes

White, yellow or visibly brown stains can develop on the affected tooth. You may also see a prominent hole passing into your tooth.


Chewing starts to become a challenge due to the pain spreading through your mouth. The discomfort may:

  • Feel sharp when you eat certain foods or radiate throughout the day
  • Be accompanied by swelling and redness, including of your gums and cheek
  • Intensify when you try to smile
  • Cause you to break a tooth

Eventually, you may also notice an abscess forming around the base of the tooth. At this point, the cavity has likely reached the tooth’s nerve, which will expose the pulp and intensify the pain.


A cavity essentially eats the tooth from the inside out, causing it to rot. Part of your tooth or the whole structure could break off and you may only be able to preserve part of it with appropriate dental care.

The infection and decay will continue, potentially spreading to other teeth and your jawbone. You may eventually lose multiple teeth and experience facial atrophy on one side.

Spreading to the Bloodstream

At this point, you risk an infection from the untreated cavity spreading to your bloodstream. From here, the infection can travel throughout your body, including your heart and may prove to be fatal without adequate medical attention.
Rather than put off dental care, visit your dentist at least every six months to check for signs of decay. To make an appointment, contact our Shelton office today.