While most people know what cavities are and how dentists treat them, many patients don’t fully understand how decay affects each part of the tooth and what happens if a cavity goes untreated. Having knowledge of tooth anatomy and how the decay process works will encourage you to prioritize dental care, including regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits. Here’s what you need to know.
Tooth Anatomy & Where Cavities Form
Here are the main anatomical parts of each tooth:
- Crown: This is the part of the tooth that’s above the gums and clearly visible.
- Enamel: Made up of cells called ameloblasts, this layer covers the crown. It’s the hardest substance in the body, and it’s the first line of protection against decay.
- Dentin: Making up the majority of the crown, this layer sits below the enamel and gives the tooth its white coloring. Because it’s softer than the enamel, the decay spreads quickly once it reaches this area.
- Cementum: This substance is as hard as bone, and it covers the tooth’s root. If it becomes exposed due to decay or gum recession, you’ll notice tooth sensitivity, especially in regards to hot and cold sensations.
- Pulp: This area houses the blood vessels and nerves that supply the tooth. If decay reaches the pulp, the tooth may become infected, and a root canal is often required.
Cavities begin in the enamel, and as the decay progresses, it can eventually reach the pulp—if left untreated.
What Happens if a Cavity Goes Untreated?
Made of resin and porcelain, fillings are put into the teeth to treat cavities. Before they’re installed, the dentist will clear away any decay, preventing it from reaching further into the teeth.
When the decay is ignored, it will grow, widening and expanding throughout the teeth; this will leave you susceptible to cracking. Over time, the cavity will eventually reach the nerves, creating sensitivity. At this point, a root canal is often needed.
If the decay spreads without treatment, an infection may occur, leading to increased pain and other health complications. Antibiotics will need to be administered.
Unfortunately, if the infection goes untreated, it will spread and can lead to serious illness or even death. However, modern dental technology has made this scenario extremely rare, as treatment options have become so advanced and effective.
When you need to treat a cavity, contact the dentists at Dental Arts. Located in Long Island, NY, and serving Nassau and Suffolk counties, they’ve been helping area residents with tooth decay since 2012. They always keep their patients informed and educated about oral health while encouraging them to protect their smiles via proactive practices. Their dentists use cutting-edge technologies to treat cavities, decay, and other oral health issues. Call (631) 591-9200 or visit their website to learn more about their services.