Cavity in a tooth

A cavity in a tooth will impact your oral health as well as being potentially painful.  This article will describe all aspects of having a cavity in a tooth including cavity symptoms, cavity causes, and cavity prevention.

For an urgent dental situation contact a 24 Hour Dentist near you, walk in Dentist near you, pediatric dentist, sedation dentist, or even a Sunday Dentist near you.

Cavity Symptoms

Symptoms from a cavity in a tooth will progress as it grows.  Be aware of any pain in your mouth or teeth, you will want to see a dentist as soon as possible to fix any dental issue,  including a cavity in front tooth, before it gets worse.

Mayo Clinic outlines these symptoms:

-Toothache, pain that starts without any apparent reason

-Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold

-Visible holes or pits in your teeth

-Pain when you bite down

These are all symptoms of an advanced cavity.  If you are suffering from any of these issues make an appointment to see a dentist right away.

Cavity in a tooth symptoms


Tooth decay is the process that causes a cavity in a tooth.  This tooth decay develops in three steps:

-Plaque forms.  Dental plaque is a clear sticky film that coats your teeth.  The plaque forms as a result of not cleaning your teeth well after of eating a lot of sugars and starches.  These sugars and starches stuck to your teeth are food for bacteria that quickly eat it and form plaque.  When plaque hardens on your teeth it is called tartar.  Tartar shields the bacteria growing on the tooth and makes it more difficult to remove.

-Plaque attacks.  The plaque stuck to your teeth produces acid that eats holes in your tooth’s outer enamel.  With these holes in the tooth’s enamel the bacteria and its acid reach the next level of the tooth known as dentin.  The dentin is soft and the acid eats through it more quickly.

-Destruction continues.  Tooth decay progresses as your cavity in a tooth becomes more serious.  The bacteria and acid continue eating away until they reach the inner tooth material known as pulp.    The pulp contains nerves and blood vessels that become irritated and swollen from the acid.  The hard tooth stops the pulp from expanding so the nerves become pressed which results in tremendous pain.  This pain may even be felt beyond the tooth’s root in the bone.

Cavity in a tooth Prevention

Sugary, sticky food can start the process of forming bacteria and plaque.  To prevent a cavity in a tooth you will need to clean away these harmful things to preserve your oral health.

Steps for cavity in a tooth prevention:

-Brush your teeth twice per day with a fluoride toothpase

-Floss once per day

-Eat fewer sugary and acidic foods

-Limit snacking between meals

Regular dental checkups also play an important part in cavity prevention.  During the visit plaque will be removed from the teeth and an exam will check for early stage cavities as well as overall dental health.  Remember to make your next appointment before leaving the dentist office.

Reducing sugar in your diet will be beneficial for your overall health as well as cavity prevention.  Also, eliminating snacks, especially sticky and sugary snacks, will help reduce the amount of time through the day with these sugars on your teeth.

Dental Sealant

Dental sealant fills in the gaps and holes where bacteria can cause a cavity in a tooth.  Applying the sealant is quick and painless, it is simply painted on the tooth using a brush that resembles a nail polish brush.  The sealant quickly hardens to form a protective shield for the tooth.

Sealant may be first applied about age 6 when the first molars are coming in and then again at age 12 when the second molars come in.

Cavity in a tooth prevention

Cavity in a tooth Treatment

The treatment for a cavity in a tooth will depend on the severity of the tooth decay.  Your dentist will exam the cavity in a tooth and possibly take an X-ray to make a dental assessment.

These are the four most common treatments for a cavity in a tooth:

  1. Fluoride.  For tooth decay in its early stage your dentist may apply fluoride to strengthen the tooth.
  2. Tooth fillings. Your dentist will remove decayed material from your tooth using a drill.  Then the hole is filled with an amalgam such as gold, silver, or composite resin.
  3. Crown.  For more severe decay, your dentist will remove decay with a drill and them cover the tooth with a custom made crown to protect your natural tooth.
  4. Root canal. The nerves can be killed by a severe cavity in a tooth.  If this happens your dentist will perform a root canal to save the tooth.  The first step of the root canal is to remove the nerves, blood vessels, and decayed parts of the tooth.  Then your dentist will put filling in the tooth and may also place a protective crown.
Cavity in a tooth treatment

FAQ - Cavity in a tooth

What is the definition of cavity?

Cavities are tiny openings or holes in the hard outer surface of your teeth.  This permanent damage is caused by many factors including bacteria producing harmful acid, sticky snacks, sipping sugary drinks, and not frequently brushing and flossing your teeth.  Cavities are also called tooth decay or caries.


Having a cavity in a tooth can be treated by a dentist and  you should get an appointment right away since it will get worse while you wait.  If you are not sure if you have a cavity in a tooth make an appointment for a dental exam to ensure your oral health.