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Do Small Cavities Need To Be Filled

Dental caries or cavities can happen at any age. And people are scared to go to dentists for it.

They either think filling will make their smile ugly or there will be a loss of tooth structure. But, if your cavity is in the primary stage and the size is small, you don’t need to worry about it.

Let’s discuss whether do small cavities need to be filled or not.

Table of Content

Tooth Decay And Cavity

Tooth decay is the precursor of a cavity. If you do not follow oral hygiene there will be a boom of acid-producing bacteria in your mouth. The acid will start to corrode aka demineralize the outer layer (enamel).

Once the enamel becomes weak, it will lead to tooth decay. When small holes develop from the untreated decayed tooth, it is known as a cavity. It can affect the inner layers of the tooth, too.

There are mainly three types of dental cavities or dental caries:

do small cavities need to be filled

Smooth Surface Cavity

If you don’t remove the food residues from your tooth, cavities will begin to form on the smooth outer surface of the teeth. If it remains untreated, it will progress day by day.

You can prevent, and in some cases, reverse it, too. All you need to do is maintain oral hygiene. Usually, people in their 20s are more likely to have this form of dental caries.

Pit And Fissure Cavity

The chewing surface of posterior teeth contains small pits and fissures. When you are not aware of brushing and flossing, the food particles stick to the small grooves and gradually form caries.

It usually starts to grow in the teenage years. You may feel intense pain and sensation when you take a bite of the chocolate.

Root Cavity

When the root decays due to gum recession, it becomes exposed to the external environment of the mouth cavity, specifically, to the acid and plaque.

It is usually found in adults and people having receding gums. This form of the cavity causes severe discomfort and pain. Also, it is difficult to treat. However, there may be some holes that aren’t cavities.

In case of this extreme dental issue, you don’t have any scope to ask ‘do small cavities need to be filled. Root cavity, no matter how small, needs immediate treatment.

Signs of Dental Cavities

At the very first stage, or when your tooth has just started to decay. And you won’t notice any signs. Until the cavity spreads to the dentin there will be hardly any symptoms.

The most common signs of a cavity are

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Toothaches
  • Pain while chewing
  • Mild or sharp pain while having anything cold, hot, or sweet
  • Visible holes on the tooth surface
  • Black, white, or brown stains on the tooth surface.

Check These 7 Comfort Foods When You Have A Toothache

Baby Teeth and Dental Cavities

Cavities are most common among children as they don’t brush their teeth properly. And they also eat a lot of sweet candy and drinks.

There is a rumor out there, the treatment of deciduous teeth is a waste of money because the teeth are going to come out anyway. But it’s not true. Instead, leaving it without treatment may cause abscesses and swelling.

The problems children may face if they have a growing cavity are

Encumber Strong Nutrition

Cavities grow faster in deciduous teeth and it causes pain and swelling. At this point, most of the children cannot eat solid food, so it develops nutritional imbalance.

Problem In Speech

Teeth play an important role in speaking. Children usually face problems in the pronunciation of some words. If they have cavities and pain, speaking will become more difficult.

It may create a lasting effect on their self-esteem and confidence, so there will be problems in communication with each other.

Do small cavities need to be filled?

The only well-known treatment of a tooth cavity is dental filling.

When you have caries in your tooth, the dentist at first will cut some more tooth portions to prepare a cavity. He/she will clean the cavity, seal the damaged area, and prevent further damage to the tooth.

The dentist will fill the prepared cavity with filling material. This process is known as a dental filling. Many people don’t want to do filling because some portion of the tooth has to be cut.

The dentists often face this question: do small cavities need to be filled? The answer is, both yes, and no. But unfortunately, if you want to avoid filling, there are only a few options.

Two possible occurrences may happen when you have a small cavity in the tooth:

When Remineralization Is Possible

When a tooth starts to decay, it loses minerals like calcium, fluoride, etc from the enamel. In some cases, the minerals can be given from an external source and thus the process can be reversed.

The process is known as remineralization. This is the basic concept of avoiding tooth filling or reverse tooth decay. You will need to follow these steps

  • Consult with a dentist every six months.
  • Use a fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
  • Use interdental cleaning agents.
  • Use mouthwash.
  • Use dental floss.
  • Avoid eating or drinking sweet foods and drinks.
  • Avoid low molecular carbohydrates, like bread, cake, etc.

In a nutshell, if you eat healthily and maintain oral hygiene, it is possible to reverse your tooth condition from worse to better. When the cavity is small enough to retain its previous stage, you don’t need to fill the cavity.

When Remineralization Is Not Possible

If the tooth decay persists for a long time, your tiny tooth cavity will become larger. It is a slow process, so it will take a long time, but it will still be small.

But wait, this small cavity is larger than the previous one, right? In this condition, you can still avoid filling. But that won’t work well for the tooth for a long time. Here are some options

Fluoride varnish

When liquid fluoride is painted to make a layer on the tooth, it is called varnish. Fluoride varnish can treat your decayed tooth and penetrate through the enamel.

Fluoride gel

In this process, fluoride gel is put on a special mold and placed on the tooth. The mold is left there for a while so that the enamel can absorb the fluoride.

Fluoridated Toothpaste

Some medicated toothpaste contains high fluoride concentrations. You can use it only if the dentist prescribes it. These toothpaste are used to prevent further damage to the tooth surface.


It is a new component found in our oral cavity that protects us from plaque-causing bacteria. Toothpaste containing triclosan is also used to prevent tooth decay.

Silver diamine fluoride (SDF)

It is a spot treatment. The dentists apply SDF on the decayed tooth area to stop the demineralization process. This treatment is useful for deciduous teeth.


The posterior teeth usually contain deep pits and fissures, so the food particles can easily be stuck there and form plaque. If the pits and fissures are sealed with sealants, the groove will be decreased.

As a result, food particles won’t be stuck there and there will be no cavity formation. Dentists use dental sealants on healthy teeth or a tooth that has just started to decay.

These options are applicable only if the cavity remains on the outer layer of your tooth, that is enamel. Once the cavity spreads to the next layer(dentin), you must do a dental filling.

If your cavity involves the pulp of the tooth (the vital portion), you will need a dental crown or bridge following root canal treatment.

What If You Leave A Small Cavity For Too Long?

It is not advised at all to leave small cavities without treatment. They can turn into a larger one in no time. So if you are wondering about ‘can I wait 6 months to fill a cavity, stop it now.

But what happens if you leave any small cavity for too long?

Persist Tooth Decay

As a cavity starts to develop from tooth decay, it may weaken the tooth. The surface of the tooth is continuously decayed by the acid produced by bacteria. Over time, it may cause tooth sensitivity to hot and cold food.

Some patients often ask ‘can small cavities be reversed’. Well, if decay continues it won’t reverse.

Tooth Breakage

If tooth decay or caries are not treated for a long time, they can weaken your tooth at the level when the tooth breaks by little pressure. Sudden tooth break is really an unwanted incident that needs immediate medical support.

You will feel sharp and unbearable pain. Some of my patients often come up with a query ‘do I need a filling if I have no pain’. I recommend them to have a regular check. Because sometimes the decay can start without generating any pain.

The tooth cannot be fixed by gluing. It needs to be extracted. As a result, a space will be created that needs to be fixed by a partial denture or implant.

Tooth Crown

If your caries condition becomes worse, you may need a dental crown. The dentist will prepare a cavity to place the crown. The worst part is, part of the adjacent tooth may also need to be cut for this procedure.

If you need a root canal treatment, then you must need a crown.

Tooth Infection

If the cavity spreads to the dentin, pulp, and adjacent soft tissue of the tooth, it can create abscess and infection. If it involves the gum, you must consult with a dentist before further damage.


Our teeth are not only a tool of mastication. It is also a tool of aesthetic appearance, and that’s why everyone’s smile is beautiful. If you have to extract a tooth it may damage your self-esteem because of the unwanted space between two teeth.

Although you can hold your confidence by using a denture or implant, it won’t ever be the same.

If you don’t want to face situations like these, you’d better be careful from the beginning. Caries is one of the most common dental issues, but they can be prevented if you stay aware.

do small cavities need to be filled


If you are wondering do small cavities need to be filled or not, the answer is, no. As long as your cavity is in the primary stage and doesn’t invade the dentin, you don’t need filling.

But you must follow the advice of your dentist to prevent tooth decay. If you don’t follow the instructions, the cavity won’t remain small and then you will require filling as well as a root canal.


What if I don’t fill a cavity?

A cavity that has crossed its primary stage should be treated as early as possible. If you don’t fill the cavity, it will spread to the dentin and pulp. Eventually, it may lead to root canal treatment. And there will be no scope to ask ‘do small cavities need to be filled or not’.

Is it painful to fill a cavity?

As long as the cavity remains on the enamel layer, it won’t hurt you to fill the cavity. But you will feel pain while filling the larger cavities. That’s why dentists inject local anesthesia to block the nerve signals, so you won’t feel the pain.

How long a cavity takes to destroy my tooth?

Usually, it takes a long time, sometimes even years to affect your tooth. Once your tooth starts to decay, it gives you a really long time to take preventive measures. When it spreads into the dentin, you should immediately consult with your dentist.

Otherwise, when it reaches the pulp, it won’t wait to create an abscess. However, there is no specific time limit, it affects different individuals at different times.

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