What is a Cavity?

CavityWhat is a Cavity

A cavity, also called dental caries or tooth decay, is a hole that forms in your teeth as a result of sugar, bacteria and the breakdown of hard tooth structure. They start forming as small and painless, thus making it hard to be recognized. However, they become  deeper and bigger with time. Regular dentist appointments can help to identify a cavity in its early stages and prevent them from becoming an irreversible problem.

Causes of Tooth Cavity

Tooth decay is caused by plaque, which is a combination of bacteria, saliva, acid, and food particles. After eating or drinking sugary foods or liquids, bacteria in your mouth turn the sugar into acid. The acid in the plaque starts to erode the tooth enamel, the hard white protective coating on your teeth that protects against decay. The risk of getting a cavity increases when the enamel becomes weakened. However, if caught early enough the tooth can be re-mineralized or hardened again.

Signs and Symptoms of Cavity


With a cavity, you may have sensitivity around the affected tooth. This includes sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks or to sweets.

Holes in teeth

A cavity not only causes soft spots but also leads to visible and unsightly holes in your teeth. The cavity starts as a small hole, then becomes bigger and deeper, sometimes causing the tooth to break or leading into the soft tissue at the center of the tooth where  he nerve is.

Tooth pain

Without medication, tooth discomfort can progress from mild intermittent sensitivity to consistent pain or throbbing. Pain occurs when the cavity causes inflammation on the pulp, a nerve in the center part of the tooth. The discomfort can radiate to your jaws, ears, or cheek.

Black or white stains on the teeth

When a cavity starts forming, you may confuse it with teeth stains.

Gum line Cavity

Another form of a cavity that affects the gum tissue is the gum line cavity. This is a smooth surface cavity that forms on the smooth sides of the teeth, often in between the teeth.

A cavity that forms just below the gum is a root surface cavity. A root surface cavity may require extensive intervention by the dentist to prevent it from growing.

As you age, your gums recede, exposing the roots of your teeth. In addition, the roots are covered by cementum which is soft compared to enamel covering the entire tooth. This makes the root more vulnerable to cavities and plaques.

Causes of a gum line cavity

According to the American Dental Association and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the main cause of a cavity is dental plaque. Plaque is a sticky layer that forms on the teeth when bacteria feast on the sugars of food or drink consumed.

These bacteria break down sugars into acids that wear off the enamel layer of your teeth. If not attended to, debris and bacteria form plaque that will harden into a yellowish layer along your gums and teeth. This yellowish layer is called tartar. As the decay advances, it causes severe infection inside the tooth. This infection is called tooth abscess. To prevent tooth decay and cavities, you need to brush and floss your teeth regularly, use fluoride treatments, and go for regular dental checkups. If you visit your dentist regularly, they can help you prevent cavities and the tooth decay process.

Who is at risk of Getting A Cavity

Food particles and drink residues are left behind if you don’t brush and floss your teeth as recommended. Bacteria in your mouth then feed on the detritus, creating a plaque that builds up and erodes your teeth enamel, causing cavities.

The plaques, with time, start building up around the gum line and can harden into tartar that is not easy to remove.

Research has shown that most adults are more likely to get gum line and root cavities due to gum recession.

Other risk factors for a cavity include:

  • Taking too many sugary or acidic foods and drinks.
  • Poor oral hygiene routine.
  • Not getting enough fluoride. You can use fluoride toothpaste to help with this issue.
  • Acid reflux disease can result in stomach acid wearing down your tooth enamel.
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

If you have dental cavities, your dentist may recommend the use of dental fillings and dental sealants to improve oral health