Tooth cavities or Tooth Decay – Diagnosis and Treatment

Tooth cavities

Tooth cavity or tooth decay is one of the most common problems that lead to tiny holes or openings in teeth. Tooth cavities initially start without causing any pain. This is why it is quite difficult to identify the cavities when they begin. This problem arises from a combination of different factors. Mouth bacteria, improper cleaning, sugary foods, and extensive eating may cause the decay of teeth.

Tooth cavities are most common in children, but anyone can get the cavities at any age of their lives. Cavities must be treated, otherwise, bacteria penetrate deep and ultimately cause decay of teeth.

What are the symptoms of tooth cavities?

It is difficult to identify the cavities in the beginning because these are painless. You may not have any symptoms, but as the decay becomes severe, you may notice the following symptoms.

  • Tooth pain
  • Pain while eating or drinking
  • Teeth sensitivity
  • Black spot or stain on the painful teeth
  • Pain on the entire side of the mouth where tooth cavity is located
  • A visible hole in the teeth

What are the causes of tooth cavities?

Usually, tooth cavities develop over time. Several factors contribute to the decay of the teeth.

Plaque formation

Plaque is a sticky substance composed of bacteria, saliva, acid, sugar, or starches. The plaque begins to develop when someone eats sugary foods extensively. The bacteria turn the sugars into acids. It creates a sticky layer on the surface.

When teeth are not properly cleaned, bacteria begin to develop on these food particles. It forms the plaque that hardens over time and forms tartar. It solidifies and makes a hard shield of bacteria which is difficult to remove.

Removal of enamel

Enamel is the outer protective covering of the teeth. It prevents the teeth from decay. The acid formed by the bacteria removes the enamel and causes the erosion of the protective layer. With the weakening of the enamel, the chances of tooth decay also increase.

At first, it makes tiny holes in the enamel. The inner layer of the teeth is dentin. The bacteria penetrate here. This layer is directly connected with nerves and much softer than the outer layer. It causes sensitivity problems when bacteria penetrate here.

Tooth decay

Finally, bacteria and acid reach the innermost layer of the teeth. This layer is called pulp and contains nerves and blood vessels.

As bacteria continue to grow here, it causes the swelling of the pulp. The irritation inside teeth continues, and swelling causes pain due to compression of the nerves.

Risk factors associated with tooth cavities

Children are at higher risk of getting tooth cavities: however, the following circumstances might make anyone more susceptible to tooth decay.

Sugary food

Sugary foods like milk, candies, cookies, cakes, cream, and soda usually do not wash away easily with saliva. These sugary food items are sticky and remain on the surfaces for a long time. As a result, there are most chances of attack by the bacteria.

Back teeth

Teeth at the back of the mouth are at higher risk of getting cavities. Both premolars and molars are hard to clean than incisors and canines. This is the reason, most people develop the cavities of premolars and molars first.

Snacking throughout the day

Eating sugary or starchy foods throughout the day provides the bacteria with a chance to attack the teeth. These bacteria turn the sugars into acid and ultimately destroys the teeth.

Similarly, people who take snacks late at night are also at higher risk of getting cavities. They fuel up the bacteria with food frequently and allow them to attack their teeth with acid.

Poor oral hygiene

Improper cleaning or brushing initiates plaque formation. Lack of or improper cleaning and flossing of teeth after eating and drinking will allow the growth of more bacteria on your teeth.

Deficiency of fluoride

Fluoride is usually added to water and tooth creams because of its teeth-friendly benefits. It is a mineral that helps in preventing tooth decay. The deficiency of fluoride can promote tooth decay.

Decreased saliva production

Sometimes, taking a heavy dosage of certain medicines, antibiotics, and drugs cause dryness of the mouth. It causes less production of saliva, and as a result, provides a chance of bacterial attack.

Acid reflux

The acid in the stomach can also cause the destruction or decay of the teeth by continuous vomiting. It damages the enamel and ultimately causes the decay of the teeth.

Treatment for tooth cavities

Treatment of the teeth cavities depends upon the severity of the condition. There are the following treatment options available for tooth cavities.

Early treatment

At the initial stages of the tooth cavity, the fluoride treatment is done to reverse the process. It protects the outer protective layer of the teeth and prevents decay.

Tooth fillings

Tooth fillings are used at later stages of decay. Here your doctor will remove the decayed material from your tooth and fill it with any substance like porcelain, gold, silver, and dental amalgam.


In case of extensive decay, your doctor will remove the decayed material and replace your entire crown with a custom-fitted crown. Crowns are also made up of resins, porcelain, or other high-strength materials.

Root canals

When the decay reaches the inner pulp, the only option to save your teeth is a root canal. Your doctor will remove all the nerves, blood vessels, and decayed material. This pulp material is then replaced with a filling.

How to prevent tooth cavities?

You can minimize the chances of developing tooth cavities by adopting the following practices.

  • Brush your teeth after every meal
  • Limit frequent snaking
  • Eat fewer sugary and starchy foods
  • Visit your dentist twice a year
  • Take water with fluoride
  • Eat calcium-rich foods
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