How much time might pass between a cavity that goes untreated to when a root canal is necessary to repair the area?

Many people — due to fear of dental work or the cost — will put off the treatment of a cavity.

“The time lapse between an untreated cavity evolving to a root canal varies depending on how big the untreated cavity is,” says Dr. Ogbonna B. Bowden, DDS, CEO of My Dental Gallery in Chicago, IL. 

“If the decay is deep and next to the pulp which houses the nerve, it can happen really fast,” continues Dr. Bowden. “Within weeks you could need one.

“If you have a small cavity that’s only in the enamel it can take years to grow into a root canal.

“How you get a cavity and how fast dental decay grows depend on many factors such as oral hygiene, sugar consumption/frequency, saliva production and current health status.”

Many people have not seen a dentist in years. This isn’t necessarily because they don’t have insurance to cover the cost.

Some people have excellent employment benefits yet still will not see a dentist – due to the anxiety of having someone working inside their mouth, and the anticipation that a nerve “might be hit.”

This is a fascinating phenomenon, because who’s ever heard, “I think you have cancer,” from a dentist?

This is something that far more likely would come up during one’s annual physical with their primary care doctor or gynecologist – yet the dentist is perhaps the most feared medical professional by both men and women.

The idea of someone “poking around” in your mouth may not be inviting, but the “poking around” will be much more extensive if an untreated cavity has created enough damage that only a root canal can repair.

You can’t determine on your own how long your untreated cavity will take to need a root canal.

If you’ve been putting off seeing a dentist, you are putting off only the inevitable. Better to make your appointment now than wait till things get a lot worse — including the bill.