Dental Cavity

Dental Cavities: What You Need to Know

Tooth decay is the most common dental problem, affecting more than 90 percent of adults in the United States. A dental cavity is a hole in the tooth caused by decay, and can lead to more serious dental problems if left untreated. Learning about cavities and how to prevent them is key to good oral health.

What Causes Dental Cavities?

Cavities are the result of bacteria in the mouth converting carbohydrates from foods into acids. They attack the outer enamel of the teeth, creating small holes or pits, called cavities. Saliva, which usually helps to counteract the acids produced by bacteria, can be reduced during sleep and when eating sugary snacks.

Risk Factors for Dental Cavities

Poor oral hygiene is the biggest risk factor for developing cavities. Those who don’t brush and floss regularly are more prone to cavities, as are those who consume lots of sugary products like sodas and candy. Other risk factors include:

  • Polymer restorations (fillings and crowns)
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Systemic diseases, such as diabetes
  • Malnutrition
  • Reduced saliva flow

Symptoms of Dental Cavities

The symptoms of cavities vary depending on the severity and location of the decay. Some of the most common signs of cavities are:

  • Pain or sensitivity when eating sweet, cold, or hot foods or drinks.
  • Visible pits or holes in the teeth.
  • White, brown, or black spots on the surface of the tooth.
  • Pain when biting down.

Prevention of Dental Cavities

The best way to prevent cavities is to practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss once a day. You should also limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks, as well as visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings.

Treatment of Dental Cavities

When cavities are caught early enough, they can usually be treated with a simple filling. The dentist removes the decayed area of the tooth and replaces it with a filling such as porcelain, gold, or silver-colored composite resins. In more severe cases, a crown may be needed. Crowns are often used to cover cracked or broken teeth, and can also be used to prevent tooth loss due to decay.


Cavities can occur at any age and are easily preventable. Practicing good oral hygiene, avoiding sugary foods, and visiting your dentist regularly are all key habits to help prevent cavities. If you think you might have a cavity, or are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it’s best to speak to your dentist as soon as possible.