A new cavity or a lost filling may not be giving you immediate pain, so it may be easy to forget about it and ignore it for the time being. That can be a big mistake. A developing or existing hole in your tooth is an invitation for trouble. The following are just a few problems that could be awaiting you if you don't get to a dentist as soon as possible.
Infection is the number one cause for concern. Cavities create holes in your teeth, which can then become filled with bacteria. If this bacteria makes its way into your gums, you end up with a painful abscess – which is a pocket of infection beneath the skin. The bacteria can also make its way into your blood stream, causing stress on your lymphatic system or even blood poisoning in extreme cases.
If the infection gets into the tooth's pulp, you will need a root canal. This procedure, which requires drilling out the pulp and filling it, can be much more painful than the typical filling.
Even if you manage to avoid an infection, you will eventually have to deal with pain. This is especially true if there is an active cavity still eating away at the tooth. Eventually, it will reach the sensitive pulp of your tooth, which holds your nerve endings. This may result in heat and cold sensitivity, pain while eating, or consistent throbbing pain at all times.
If you're dealing with a lost filling, you may end up with another cavity in the hole. Existing cavities may get bigger or even spread onto other teeth. Basically, a hole or cavity in a tooth is little more than a holding cell for harmful bacteria. A side effect of this pocket of bacteria can be chronic bad breath, which is another problem you likely want to avoid.
The longer you put off treatment, the more likely it becomes that you will lose the entire tooth. The tooth may crack or the cavity may become so deep that removal is the only option. Bacteria from the cavity can also get into the gums, resulting in periodontal disease. This can lead to bone loss beneath the teeth and eventual loss of more than just the original tooth.
Don't put off dental care, even if you aren't feeling any pain. Catching a cavity when it is small or replacing a filling right away is much quicker to treat