How Long Does It Take for a Cavity to Form?

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Among children in the United States, cavities are one of the most common types of tooth decay. About 20 children between the ages of 5 and 11 are affected by these conditions.

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Multiple factors, including oral hygiene, diet, and more can affect how rapidly tooth decay progresses. Most cavities, however, take several months or years to develop.

We will explain how cavities form in this article, how long it takes a cavity to advance, and how to maintain good oral hygiene to avoid cavities.

How does a cavity form?

A cavity is tooth damage that occurs as a consequence of unaddressed tooth decay. Due to factors that lead to poor oral health, such as not brushing your teeth or eating a diet high in sugar, cavities grow over time.

Below you can find the different phases of tooth decay that contribute to a cavity’s progression.

Demineralization

The first step of tooth decay is demineralization of the enamel. It happens when the tooth is exposed to food acids repeatedly.

Proper oral hygiene and exposure to fluoride will generally reverse the harm at this point of tooth decay.

Enamel decay

Continued enamel demineralization contributes over time to further deterioration of the tooth. Eventually, this decay may create holes called dental caries, or cavities, in the teeth.

When a cavity is fully created, it can not be reversed and needs treatment.

Dentin decay

Without intervention, if a cavity continues to progress, the decay will enter the Dentin of the tooth. The soft tissue under the enamel that is highly sensitive is Dentin.

You may note that a cavity becomes responsive or painful once the decay enters the Dentin. You might need a larger filling, inlay, or even a dental crown at this stage.

Pulp decay

The pulp of the tooth, which includes nerves and blood vessels, lies beneath the Dentin. The tooth starts to decay more rapidly when a cavity enters the pulp, resulting in inflammation, swelling and pain.

In most cases, treatment with a root canal is needed for tooth decay that has entered the pulp of the tooth.

Abscess

Dental abscesses occur as the bacteria that cause cavities to begin to grow under the tooth’s pulp. Inflammation and a pocket of pus under the tooth are caused by such bacteria.

Some abscesses go unnoticed until there are unbearable pain and swelling. Dental abscesses require immediate therapy and in some cases, lead to tooth removal.

How long does it take for a cavity to form?

Since everybody’s oral hygiene is different, there’s the precise timeframe for how long it takes a cavity to develop.

Some of the variables that affect how easily tooth decay occurs include:

  • Levels of acidity in the mouth
  • How frequently one’s teeth are exposed to acid
  • How healthy one’s tooth enamel is and the thickness
  • Location of the cavity

Cavities grow over the years, in most cases. Depending on oral hygiene, even months occasionally.

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Are there any symptoms you might notice?

The symptoms of a cavity can vary from person to person and depend on the degree of tooth decay in general.

Initially, a white spot on the tooth that does not go away with brushing can be found. This white spot can become a hole in the tooth over time. A hole is a symbol in the tooth that a cavity has formed.

Additional signs of a cavity can include:

  • Sensitivity to cold and hot 
  • Sensitivity to sweets
  • Tooth pain, especially when the pain lingers or becomes more severe

Can you stop or reverse a cavity from forming at any one of these stages?

Luckily, as it is in the early phases of demineralization, it is possible to reverse tooth decay.

During the early stages of decay, to help regenerate the minerals in the tooth, it is important to maintain good oral hygiene. Any tips on how to delay or reverse the progression of a cavity in the early stages can be found below.

  • Watch your sugar intake: Reduce intake of sugary or starchy foods.
  • Brush often: Brush the teeth twice daily, preferably with a fluoride-containing toothpaste.
  • Floss daily: Floss at least once per day to clean between teeth.
  • Use mouthwash: Consider adding a fluoride mouthwash to your nightly brushing routine.
  • Visit the dentist: Visit your dentists regularly — a cleaning at least every six months is recommended.

Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to undo the damage once a cavity has created a hole in the tooth, and care would be required.

How long does it take for a cavity to reach a nerve?

A cavity, after the decay has entered the pulp of the tooth, enters the nerve. The characteristic tooth pain that is associated with significant tooth decay is caused by exposed blood vessels and nerves inside the pulp.

Unfortunately, there’s no timeframe on how long it takes for a cavity to enter the pulp. The deeper the decay buries into the tooth, however, the faster the cavity can progress.

How long does it take for a cavity to destroy a tooth?

Once it has entered the pulp stage of tooth decay or becomes an abscess, a cavity will kill a tooth. The damage to the tooth can be so severe at this point that it can not be saved with procedures such as a crown or root canal.

There’sThere’s no clear timeframe for how soon a tooth can be damaged by a cavity. In most cases, regardless of the year, significant tooth loss occurs.

Fortunately, before it ever gets this serious, good dental hygiene and routine dental checkups will save a tooth.

How is a cavity treated?

Often, avoidance is not enough to avoid the creation of a cavity entirely. The therapy choices for the cavity depend on the degree of the damage to the tooth when this occurs.

  • Filling: A resin or composite filler may be used for small minor cavities to fill the hole and avoid the decay development through the tooth.
  • Crown: A crown may be necessary for larger cavities that involve the removal of larger portions of the tooth. Custom made metal, or porcelain crowns can be fitted over the tooth’s surface.
  • Root canal: Within the tooth, decay that enters the pulp can cause irreversible damage to the nerve endings, requiring a root canal. Decay is reduced in a root canal, and the pulp chamber is removed,
  • Removal: Extraction of the affected tooth becomes the only alternative when the damage to a tooth is too much to patch.

As you can see if you want to escape the treatment choices, prevention by healthy oral hygiene is always the best approach.

Takeaway

Among children and adults, cavities are one of the most common forms of tooth decay.

Although most cavities grow over a period of months or years, the development of tooth decay may be significantly increased by a lack of oral hygiene.

It will need care once a cavity forms, so maintaining good oral health and keeping up with skilled cleanings will help stop tooth decay in its tracks.

Cavity to Form
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Jennifer Aigbini
I am a language enthusiast, studying Linguistics at the University of Benin, in Nigeria.
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