This article on Epainassist.com has been reviewed by a medical professional, as well as checked for facts, to assure the readers the best possible accuracy.

We follow a strict editorial policy and we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any level of plagiarism. Our articles are resourced from reputable online pages. This article may contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The feedback link “Was this Article Helpful” on this page can be used to report content that is not accurate, up-to-date or questionable in any manner.

This article does not provide medical advice.


How Long Does It Take For A Cavity To Form?

The decay of tooth results in formation of cavities which are one of the most common dental problems among children in the United States with affecting about 20% of children between the ages of five and 11.(1)

There are many factors which decide the speed at which tooth decay happens, such as diet, oral hygiene etc.(2) However, it can take many months to years for many of the cavities to form.

How Does A Cavity Form?

A cavity is decaying or damage of the tooth which develops from untreated tooth decay.(4) There are many factors which play a role in development of cavities, such as bad oral hygiene, consuming a diet high in sugar etc.(2)

What are the Stages of Tooth Decay?

There are different stages of tooth decay which can cause progression of a cavity and these are discussed below:(3, 5)

Demineralization: This is the first stage of tooth decay where there is demineralization of the enamel occurring as a result of persistent exposure of the tooth to acids from foods. In this stage, the damage can be reversed with good oral care and exposure to fluoride.(4)

Enamel Decay: This second stage of tooth decay is where there is continued demineralization of the enamel which leads to more tooth decay as time goes and eventually results in cavities or dental caries, which are holes in the teeth.

After a cavity is completely developed, it cannot reverse and needs dental treatment.

Dentin Decay: If the cavity is not treated and it continues to decay, then it will reach the tooth’s dentin, which is the soft tissue present under the enamel and is very sensitive. After the decay has reached the dentin, the cavity becomes painful or sensitive and needs a larger filling or in severe cases a dental crown.

Pulp Decay: The pulp of the tooth is present under the dentin and it contains blood vessels and nerves. After the cavity reaches the pulp, there is rapid decaying of the remaining tooth and causes pain, inflammation and swelling. Majority of the times in this stage, treatment consists of root canal with crown.(4)

Dental Abscess: Dental abscesses develop when the cavity causing bacteria continues to spread under the pulp of the tooth causing infection and abscess, which is a pocket of pus developing under the tooth.(6) Most of the times, the patient gets to know of the abscess only after the swelling and pain becomes unbearable. Immediate treatment is required for dental abscesses and in severe cases removal of the tooth will be necessary.(10)

How Long Does It Take For A Cavity To Form?

One cannot predict the exact timeline for development of cavity as there are many factors which determine the rate of cavity development, such as:

  • The overall thickness and health of the tooth enamel.
  • The frequency at which the teeth are exposed to acid.
  • The amount of acidity in the mouth.
  • Location of the cavity.

Majority of the times it takes years for a cavity to form. Depending on the above factors it can develop quickly too, like in few months.

What are the Symptoms of Cavity Formation?

The symptoms of a cavity can differ from one person to another and also depends on the extent of the tooth decay. Initially, there is development of a white spot on the tooth, which persists despite brushing. Gradually, this white spot turn brownish in color and becomes soft and results in a hole or cavity in the tooth.

Some of the other symptoms of a dental cavity are:

  • Sensitivity to sweet foods.
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold foods.
  • Acute tooth ache occurs or lingering pain, which becomes more severe with time.

Can a Cavity Formation Be Halted Or Reversed At Any Stage?

In the initial stages of tooth demineralization, one can reverse the tooth decay. This can be done by following a good dental hygiene, which helps in rebuilding the minerals lost in the tooth decaying process. Some of the steps which can be taken to slow or reverse the development of cavity in the starting stages are:(5)

  • Brushing twice a day preferably with fluoride toothpaste.(7)
  • Limiting the intake of starchy and sugary foods.
  • Daily flossing once per day to clean the inter-dental spaces.
  • Including a fluoride mouthwash in the nightly brushing routine.
  • Regular visits to the dentist and getting teeth cleaning every 6 months.

Unfortunately, after the cavity has fully formed and there is a hole in the tooth, it is impossible to reverse the decay and damage and treatment is needed for treating the symptoms and to prevent further damage.

How Long Does It Take For A Cavity To Reach A Nerve?

Once the decay has reached the pulp of the tooth, then it means that the cavity has reached the nerve. Exposed nerves and blood vessels within the pulp cause the classic symptom of cavity, which is tooth pain accompanied with acute tooth decay. There is no fixed duration of when the cavity to reaches the pulp. However, the more the decay gets into the tooth, the faster is the progression of the cavity.

How Long Does It Take For A Cavity To Destroy A Tooth?

After the cavity has reached the pulp stage or there is development of abscess, then it means that the tooth is destroyed beyond repair by the cavity so much that any form of treatment cannot save the tooth and extraction of tooth is the only form of treatment.

The time it takes for the cavity to reach the pulp cannot be determined. Majority of the times, it takes years of unaddressed tooth decay to reach this stage of utter destruction of the tooth.

The good news is regular dental checkups with good dental hygiene helps in saving the tooth before it reaches this stage.

What is the Treatment of a Cavity?

Treating a cavity depends on the extent of the tooth damage and consists of:

Filling can be done for minor or small cavities. Fillings can be composite or resin and are used to fill the cavity and halt the progression of tooth decay.(8)

Crown is used for larger cavities where larger areas of tooth need to be removed and on top of the decayed tooth, a customized crown made of porcelain or metal is placed over the surface of the tooth.

Root canal is done when the decay has reached the pulp resulting in permanent damage to the nerve endings within the tooth. In this treatment, the decayed part of the tooth is removed and cleaning of the pulp chamber and roots is done and after canals are filled, filling is added on the top followed by a crown.(9)

Tooth Removal is done when there is excessive damage to the tooth beyond repair and tooth extraction is the only option.


Cavities are one of the common forms of tooth decay among adults and children. Majority of the cavities take a long time to develop; however, other factors such as poor oral hygiene and bad diet can increase the rate at which the tooth decays and a cavity develops. In the initial stages, treatment can reverse the damage. However, once the cavity is fully formed, it needs proper dental treatment. Regular dental checkups and cleaning helps in arresting the tooth decay and prevent it from worsening. Prevention is actually the best way to treat a cavity and this can be done by following a healthy oral hygiene and healthy diet for good teeth to avoid cavity formation and the extensive treatment it needs.


Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 6, 2023

Recent Posts

Related Posts