Cavities 101

Cavities 101

Cavities 101

Imagine this: you’ve got a smile that could light up a room, all dazzling and sparkling. But deep inside, you feel this sting, and guess what? No matter how much shine you’ve got going on, it can’t hide the discomfort lurking beneath the surface caused by stubborn cavities!

So, let’s not be fooled by the blindingly bright smile, thinking it’ll magically make the pain vanish. It’s about time we take a closer look at our dental care routine and show those pearly whites the tender, loving care they truly deserve.

In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and effective preventive measures to keep this dilemma at bay. So, grab your tools and get ready to brush away those pesky cavities!

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What Are Cavities?

Have you ever experienced a mysterious tingling sensation in your mouth? It could be a sign of cavities.

Cavities are small holes or pits that form on the hard surfaces of teeth, making them one of the most prevalent dental issues. Ignoring cavities can lead to serious oral health problems, which should definitely be avoided.

Tooth decay, caused by bacteria that produce acids eroding tooth enamel, is the primary cause of cavities. While anyone can be affected by cavities, children and teenagers, as well as those who consistently consume sugary or acidic foods and drinks, are particularly vulnerable. And if you’re one who neglects proper oral hygiene practices like regular brushing and flossing, you can be an easy target as well. 


What Are Cavities?

What Are The Symptoms Of Cavities?

Initially, cavities are typically asymptomatic, causing no pain or discomfort. However, if left untreated, symptoms can become more noticeable and incredibly unbearable! To help you determine whether a visit to the dentist is necessary, here are common symptoms associated with cavities:

  • Tooth Sensitivity – When eating or drinking hot, cold, or sweet foods, you may experience pain or discomfort.
  • Toothache – This can be a dull, continuous ache or a sharp, sudden pain.
  • Visible Holes or Pits in the Teeth – Try examining your mouth, as you may be able to observe these marks with the naked eye.
  • Discoloration – Cavities can cause teeth to become discolored or darker.
  • Bad Breath – Having an unusual odor in your breath is often a sign of cavities caused by bacteria.
  • Pain When Biting Down – When you bite down on certain areas of your teeth, you may feel some pain or aching sensations.

If you happen to experience any of these symptoms, consider paying a visit to your dentist right away. They will be able to diagnose the issue and recommend the most suitable treatment option for you. 

Remember, taking prompt action can spare you from unnecessary dental woes!

What Are The Causes Of Cavities?

Cavities don't appear out of nowhere; they are the result of various factors such as bacteria, lack of oral hygiene, sugar consumption, and genetics. Here are some of the most common causes of cavities:

Lack Of Disruption

Lack of disruption is when the enamel of the teeth is not disturbed. This is the perfect time for bacteria to build up and cause cavities. Poor oral hygiene practices, such as irregular brushing and flossing, contribute to this lack of disruption and increase the risk of cavities. Additionally, not visiting the dentist regularly can also lead to cavities due to the lack of professional cleaning and disruption of the enamel.


Whenever you consume sugar, bacteria in the mouth break it down into acids that can harm the tooth enamel. These bacteria thrive on sugar, producing additional acid that continues to erode the teeth. Also, it’s worth noting that certain sugary foods, like candy, have a tendency to stick to the teeth, leading to more significant damage compared to other types of sugar.


Bacteria are one of the leading causes of cavities. They interact with sugar and other particles in the mouth, forming a sticky film known as plaque. This plaque has the potential to accumulate on and in between teeth, creating an environment conducive to cavity formation. Likewise, bacteria can release acids that gradually erode the enamel on your teeth, leading to more severe cases of cavities.


Genetics have a part to play in cavity formation. Although the precise details are not entirely clear, studies suggest that individuals with specific genes have a higher likelihood of developing cavities. 

Some of these genes are linked to decreased saliva production, which can raise the risk of cavities since saliva works its magic in washing away food particles and bacteria. Moreover, some people might have a genetic predisposition to cavity-causing bacteria, rendering them more susceptible to infection.1

Oral Hygiene

Neglecting proper oral hygiene guarantees you an automatic ticket to cavities. 

By diligently practicing a routine of brushing your teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste, daily flossing, and incorporating the use of mouthwash, you can keep cavities at bay and promote a healthy smile.

How Can You Prevent Cavities?

Cavities don’t just form overnight, giving you an opportunity to prevent them from disrupting your daily life. Take the following steps to safeguard your teeth from decay:

Maintain Good Oral Hygiene

A solid oral hygiene routine involves a few key habits that work together to maintain a healthy smile. Start by brushing your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Be sure to brush for at least two minutes, giving extra attention to the gumline and hard-to-reach areas. Alongside brushing, daily flossing helps remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth, preventing the buildup of cavity-causing bacteria. To complete the winning formula, make regular visits to your dentist for checkups and professional cleanings. These visits allow for early detection of dental issues and contribute to optimal oral health.

By faithfully following these steps, you’ll be on your way to a dazzling smile with healthy gums and teeth, waving goodbye to those pesky cavities!

Limit Sugary And Acidic Foods

Sugary and acidic foods increase the risk of cavities. Bacteria love sugary treats like candy, cookies, and cakes, creating an ideal environment for them to thrive. These bacteria produce acids that erode tooth enamel, causing cavities.

To lower the risk, it is important to limit your consumption of sweets and acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and sodas, as they also weaken enamel and contribute to cavities.

Use Fluoride Treatments

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in water and soil, known for its ability to strengthen tooth enamel and enhance its resistance against cavity-causing acids.

Fluoride treatments are available in many forms, such as toothpaste and mouthwashes, as well as professionally applied treatments. Typically, fluoride is applied in the form of a varnish or gel. It is carefully painted onto the teeth and left to sit for a few minutes before being rinsed off, allowing the fluoride to work effectively in fortifying the enamel.

Consider Dental Sealants

Dental sealants are an effective preventive measure against cavities. These thin, plastic coatings are carefully painted onto the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. By forming a protective barrier, sealants help prevent bacteria, food particles, and debris from becoming trapped in the grooves and crevices of the teeth. As a result, the risk of cavities and tooth decay is significantly reduced.

The application of sealants is a quick process, typically taking only a few minutes, and they can last for several years. 

Friendly reminder that sealants are most effective when used in combination with good oral hygiene practices and should not be considered a substitute for essential habits such as brushing and flossing.

Eat A Balanced Diet

A healthy diet includes a variety of foods from major food groups like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit sweets and avoid excessive consumption of acidic drinks. This balanced approach ensures your body gets the essential nutrients it needs to stay healthy.

How Are Cavities Treated?

When it comes to treating cavities, there are several options depending on the severity. Don't worry, though! Here are all the available options to help you with any dental issues you might be facing:

Dental Crown

Dental crowns are an ideal solution when a tooth is extensively damaged and cannot be repaired with a simple filling. This restorative procedure involves placing a cap over the entire visible surface of the tooth.

By covering the tooth, a dental crown restores its shape, size, and strength while providing protection against further damage. The crowns can be made from different materials, such as porcelain, metal, or a combination, depending on factors like tooth location, budget, and cosmetic preferences.

Dental crowns can go the distance with proper care, lasting for many years. Just remember to keep up with your oral hygiene routine by brushing and flossing regularly. And don’t forget to schedule those check-ups and cleanings with your dentist to keep your dental crowns in tip-top shape for the long haul!

Dental Fillings

Dental fillings are used to effectively fill the space created by cavities and help prevent further decay.

The process of getting a filling is pretty straightforward. The dentist cleans the area around the cavity, removes any decay, and then fills the cavity with the chosen material. They shape it to fit your tooth perfectly and give it a shiny polish for a smooth finish.

Dental fillings are highly durable and can last for many years. However, they might need a replacement over time due to wear and tear or changes in your tooth’s shape. So, regular dental check-ups are a must to ensure your filling stays intact and keeps fighting the good fight against cavities.

Inlays And Onlays

When a regular dental filling is not enough, dentists usually recommend dental inlays and onlays, also known as indirect fillings, which are also utilized to repair damaged or decayed teeth. They are more durable than traditional fillings and can last up to 15 years with proper care. Plus, they are also more aesthetically pleasing than metal fillings and can be matched to the color of the tooth.

Both types of indirect fillings focus on restoring the chewing surface of a tooth, but they differ in coverage. Inlays fill the pits and fissures between a tooth’s cusps, while onlays are larger and cover more of the tooth, restoring more of the surface area. 

Root Canal

Root canals are a type of endodontic treatment used to repair and save badly decayed or infected teeth. They are effective in treating various conditions, including deep decay, infection, and tooth trauma.

This procedure is typically performed by a dentist or an endodontist, a specialist in treating diseases of the soft tissue inside teeth. It involves one or more visits, which may include taking X-rays, numbing the area, and removing the infected pulp. Once the pulp is removed, the tooth’s interior is thoroughly cleaned and sealed.

Root canals are generally safe and effective, but like any dental procedure, there is a slight chance of complications, such as infection, pain, or swelling. Don’t fret, though! Just make sure to follow your dentist’s instructions and keep up with regular check-ups to achieve the best possible outcome.

When Should You Go To The Dentist?

Generally, it is recommended to visit the dentist twice a year for a check-up and cleaning. However, if you are at a higher risk of developing cavities, such as a history of cavities, poor oral hygiene, or a sugary diet, you may need to visit the dentist more often.

If you notice any signs of cavities like tooth sensitivity, pain, or discoloration, don’t hesitate to schedule a dentist appointment pronto! Catching cavities early helps prevent further damage and saves you from more extensive treatments.

If you’re an expecting mom, prioritize dental care by visiting the dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings throughout your pregnancy. Pregnancy brings hormonal changes that can increase the risk of cavities, as swollen and irritated gums become more vulnerable.

Remember, a trip to the dentist is always a good idea. If you have any concerns about your oral health or need advice on caring for your teeth and gums, your friendly family dentist is there to provide expert guidance.

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How fast do cavities grow?

Cavities generally develop slowly over time, often taking several months or even years to form, but they can also form quickly if the conditions are right. It's worth noting that the rate at which cavities grow can differ from person to person and can be influenced by factors such as the type of food consumed, the presence of bacteria, and the interval between dental visits.

How long can cavities go untreated?

On average, it typically takes around 3 to 6 months for cavities or tooth decay to begin affecting the nerves. If left untreated for an extended period, cavities can continue to progress and spread. This can result in additional harm to the tooth and may even lead to tooth loss.

Do cavities get worse with age?

Yes, cavities can worsen as we age, but the good news is that they can be prevented. Maintaining proper oral hygiene, regular dental check-ups, and keeping a balanced diet low in sugar can significantly reduce the risk of cavities. 

Can a cavity go away on its own?

No, cavities cannot go away on their own. Cavities require professional treatment in order to be properly treated and prevented from worsening. Make sure to visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings to prevent cavities from forming or worsening.

How do you know if a cavity is worse?

The only way to know if a cavity is worsening is to visit your dentist for a check-up. Your dentist will be able to diagnose the severity of the cavity and provide the appropriate treatment.


  1. Bretz, W. A., Corby, P., Schork, N., & Hart, T. C. (2003, December). Evidence of a contribution of genetic factors to dental caries risk. The journal of evidence-based dental practice.