It can take up to five years from the time a cavity begins to develop until the tooth needs treatment to prevent the cavity from spreading further. However, for some people, that period can be as short as a few months. If a cavity isn't treated for two years or more, serious damage to the tooth is likely to occur. You'll notice discoloration around the tooth, swelling around the gums, and severe pain and tenderness.
The bacteria likely damaged the root and pulp of the tooth at this time. Or, a root canal can save the tooth and eliminate tooth decay. An untreated tooth decay can have dramatic results that can be so severe that they can even cause death. Cavities are a gateway to infection, which can spread quickly the longer it's not treated.
As soon as an infection reaches the bloodstream, it can travel throughout the rest of the body, with fatal consequences. There's a reason dentists recommend seeing you every six months. If you think that just because you don't have any pain you should be doing a good job with your dental health, think again. Many cavities don't produce any symptoms, and even large cavities can exist without discomfort.
However, leaving tooth decay untreated or detected for an extended period of time can result in very painful (and costly) dental complications. Your routine dental checkup can be used to detect cavities in their earliest stages and treat them before they further damage the tooth or surrounding gum tissue. Untreated tooth decay can cause an increasing number of health problems the longer they go untreated. Here's what your local DTLA dentist wants you to know about the dangers of leaving tooth decay unattended.
To answer the question of how long a cavity can remain untreated, it's important to first understand how cavities form. If detected early, the dentist can add a filling that will save the integrity of the tooth and protect it against future cavities.