words, “you have a cavity,” might come as a surprise. This is especially true
if you think you have a good oral hygiene routine. But even if your dentist
delivers bad news, there are ways to treat a cavity and prevent new ones from
A cavity, also
called tooth decay, is a hole that forms in a tooth. Cavities start small and
gradually become bigger when left untreated. Since many cavities don’t cause
pain in the beginning, some people don’t realize a problem exists. Regular
dental appointments can detect tooth decay early.
of a cavity depend on the severity of the decay. These may include:
hole in the teeth
or white staining on teeth
According to the
Mayo Clinic, cavities and tooth decay are some
of the most common health problems in the world. Anyone with teeth can develop
one, including infants. To protect your oral health and the oral health of your
family, you should learn the causes and risk factors of cavities.
Causes of Tooth Cavities
tooth cavities. This is a sticky substance that binds to teeth. Everyone has
bacteria in their mouth. After eating or drinking foods with sugar, bacteria in
our mouth changes sugar into acid. Plaque is actually a combination of
bacteria, saliva, acid, and food particles. It starts forming on teeth soon
after eating or drinking anything sugary. This is why regular brushing is
to teeth, and the acid in plaque can slowly erode tooth enamel. Enamel is a
hard, protective coating on teeth that protects against tooth decay. As tooth
enamel weakens, the risk for decay increases.
Everyone is at
risk for cavities, but some people have a higher risk. Risk factors include:
many sugary or acidic foods and drinks
poor oral hygiene routine (failing to brush or floss daily)
getting enough fluoride
disorders (such as anorexia and bulimia)
reflux disease (stomach acid wears down tooth enamel)
develop more often in the back teeth, according to the Mayo Clinic. These teeth have grooves and
openings that can trap food particles. Also, these teeth are sometimes harder
to reach when brushing and flossing.
Treatment Options for Tooth Cavities
doctor about uncomfortable symptoms like tooth sensitivity or tooth pain. Your
dentist can identify tooth decay after an oral exam. However, some cavities aren’t
visible from an oral exam. So, your dentist may use a dental X-ray to look for
several ways to treat a cavity. Treatment options depend on the severity of the
- Tooth fillings: A dentist uses a drill and removes decayed material from a tooth. Your
dentist fills the tooth with a substance, such as silver, gold, or composite
For larger decays, a dentist may place a custom fit cap over your tooth to
replace its natural crown. Decayed tooth material is removed prior to beginning
- Root canal:
When tooth decay causes the death of nerves, dentists perform a root canal to
save the tooth. They remove the nerve and blood vessel tissues, and any decayed
areas of the tooth. Dentists also check for infections, and apply medication to
the roots as needed. They fill the tooth, and sometimes they’ll place a crown
on the tooth.
dentist detects a tooth cavity in its early stage, a fluoride treatment may
restore your tooth enamel and prevent further decay.
Complications from Tooth Cavities
untreated, a tooth cavity can cause a variety of complications. Some people
have ongoing tooth pain. Others develop a tooth abscess which can become
infected and trigger life-threatening complications, like an infection that enters
the bloodstream (sepsis).
cavity can also cause pus to develop around the infected tooth. There’s a
greater risk for breaking or chipping a tooth, and some people have problems
chewing their food. If you put off seeing a dentist, you may cause irreparable
damage to your tooth. At this point, the only way to fix the cavity is for your
dentist to remove the tooth and replace it with an implant or bridge.
Reduce Your Risk
Tooth cavities are a common
dental problem, but you can reduce your risk. Brush your teeth twice a day with
a fluoride toothpaste and floss once daily as recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA). Eat fewer sugary and acidic foods, and
limit snacking between meals. Also, don’t forget to visit your dentist at least
twice a year for regular teeth cleanings.