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Is It Too Late If a Cavity Hurts? Understanding the Warning Signs

Dental cavities, also known as tooth decay or dental caries, are holes that develop when the acids in your mouth deteriorate your tooth’s enamel.

They can affect people of all ages, and if left untreated, can lead to severe pain and discomfort. Moreover, if a cavity has progressed too far, it may require extensive treatment.

If you are wondering “is it too late if a cavity hurts”, keep on reading, as here we’ll explore some of the signs that indicate a cavity is too advanced, the effects, and what can be done.


Identifying the Symptoms

In the beginning, it can be tricky, as a stage 1 early cavity usually does not manifest any symptoms. However, as the decay progresses and begins to reach beyond the enamel into the tooth’s pulp, you may start to notice some of these signs:

  • Bad breath or taste in your mouth.
  • Facial Swelling.
  • Continuous or sudden tooth pain.
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks.
  • Grey, brown, or black spots on your teeth.
  • Bleeding gums.
  • Pain when biting down.

Understanding How Cavities Progress

Dental cavities progressively harm the different layers of a tooth. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this issue has five stages:

    1. Demineralization: This initial stage involves the appearance of small, white spots on the surface of your tooth. These spots develop due to mineral loss as a result of exposure to acids produced by plaque bacteria.

    2. Enamel Decay: If there’s no intervention, tooth decay will continue to deteriorate your enamel. As the enamel continues to weaken, cavities will start to become noticeable; those white spots will begin to darken into a brownish color.

    3. Dentin Decay: Dentin is the layer located below the enamel of your teeth. It’s softer and more vulnerable to cavities than the enamel. When plaque and bacteria reach it, cavities start to progress faster and cause dark brown spots on your teeth.

    4. Pulp Damage: This refers to the point when the decay reaches the tooth pulp, which is the innermost part of the tooth. It is a sensitive area that contains nerves and blood vessels. When cavities reach this stage, you may begin to have symptoms like pulsating tooth pain, and red and swollen gums, and the spots on your teeth may turn black.

    5.  Abscessed Tooth: An untreated deep cavity can eventually cause infection. With the infection, inflammation in the tooth can increase, leading to the formation of a pocket of pus called an abscess. You may also start to experience severe pain that radiates into your jaw, and swelling of your gums, and lymph nodes. This stage can worsen as the infection can spread to the tissues surrounding the tooth and other areas of your body.


How Cavities Are Treated

You can identify a cavity on time by having regular dental checkups. If you treat a cavity before it worsens, you will avoid further complications and complex treatment.
Cavities are treated depending on the severity of them. Treatments include:

Fluoride Treatments

Fluoride treatments are usually employed in the very early stages of cavities. This can help your tooth’s enamel to repair itself.


This is one of the most common treatments for cavities. A dental filling involves the removal of the decayed area to then fill the hole with materials that include composite resin, silver amalgam, porcelain, and gold.

Root Canal Therapy

If the cavity has progressed to damage the pulp, indicating a big cavity in tooth, a root canal may be necessary. When performing a root canal, the specialist will remove the tooth pulp, and then fill the tooth with a special filling.

Root canal therapy is necessary, only if possible, to save a badly infected tooth instead of extracting it.

Dental Crowns

For more extensive decay or after a root canal, a dental crown may be placed over the tooth to restore its shape, strength, and functionality.

Dental crowns can be made of different materials, including porcelain fused to metal, zirconia, all-porcelain, and gold.


In severe cases where the tooth is extensively damaged and cannot be saved, extraction may be the last resort.

After an extraction, the tooth can leave a gap that can have a big impact on oral functions, such as chewing efficiency and speech clarity, and aesthetics.

Moreover, the surrounding teeth may gradually shift into the space, potentially leading to misalignment. Your dentist may recommend you to get a bridge or dental implant to replace the extracted tooth.

Is it Too Late if a Cavity Hurts?

Experiencing pain from a cavity is a clear indication that the decay has progressed, but it’s not necessarily too late to get treatment. If you find yourself at this point, do not hesitate to visit your dentist as soon as possible. The dental professional will check how affected the tooth is, and recommend the appropriate treatment.


Preserve Your Smile

Early treatment is key to preventing cavities from progressing and affecting your oral health. Don’t forget to take care of your dental hygiene and have regular checkups to detect any cavities.

If you’re seeking treatment for an advanced cavity, such as root canal therapy, give us a call, our skilled team of dental professionals will help you preserve your smile.

Book an appointment online or contact us at (928) 257 1307, one of our patient coordinators will be ready to assist you.