Tooth Cavity: Hole in Tooth Causes, Signs & Treatments

In this article

In this article

A tooth cavity or cavities are common oral health problems affecting people of all ages. Also known as caries, they result from tooth decay and cause discomfort, pain, and unsightly gaps in your smile. The truth is, no one is immune to cavities, but with some knowledge and preventative measures, you can prevent them. Despite being a widespread problem, many people are unaware of what causes cavities and how to avoid them. This article will discuss dental cavities, their causes, their symptoms, and how you can protect your precious pearly whites.

What exactly is a tooth cavity?

Tooth cavities are a widespread problem and cause discomfort and pain in your mouth. They occur when bacteria that naturally exist in the mouth produce acid, which attacks the enamel and dentin, the two hard tissues in your tooth. Over time, the acid erodes the enamel and dentin, creating small holes or pockets in the tooth. Over time, these holes can become larger and deeper, causing sensitivity, pain, tooth decay and even tooth loss.

Tooth cavity causes

Several factors can lead to the destruction of your teeth’s hard tissue and cause cavities. Some of the major causes include:

Poor oral hygiene

Regular brushing and flossing can help you avoid plaque buildup. Plaque is a bacterial film that adheres to your teeth and can cause tooth decay. If not removed, plaque can harden into tartar, which only a dentist can remove. Plaque and tartar contain bacteria that produce acid that attacks your tooth enamel, causing cavities.

Consuming sugary and acidic foods and drinks

Sugary and acidic foods and drinks can increase plaque and tartar production in your mouth, eroding your enamel and making your teeth more vulnerable to decay. This is why limiting your intake of sugary and acidic foods, and beverages are essential.

Lack of routine dental examinations

Regular dental examinations are essential for the early detection and treatment of cavities. Your dentist can remove plaque and tartar and fill any cavities.

Dry mouth

Saliva helps prevent tooth decay and cavities by removing food and plaque from the teeth. Additionally, chemicals in saliva neutralize the acid produced by bacteria. When you have a dry mouth, there is less saliva to protect your teeth from acid, increasing your chances of developing cavities. Certain drugs and radiation to your head or neck can raise your risk of cavities by lowering saliva production.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as acid reflux, can increase your chances of developing cavities. Some medications can also cause dry mouth, which raises your risk even further.

Risk factors for dental caries

Everyone with teeth is susceptible to developing cavities, but the following conditions can increase the likelihood:

Teeth location 

Decay most commonly affects the rear teeth (molars and premolars). These teeth have numerous pits, grooves, and roots that can capture food particles. As a result, they are more challenging to clean than your front teeth, which are smoother and easier to reach.

Some foods and beverages

Caramel, popcorn, sugar, soda, dried fruit, cake, cookies, hard candies, chocolate biscuits, dry cereal, and chips are more prone to induce tooth decay than items that are quickly removed by saliva.

Frequent snacking 

When you consistently consume sugary snacks and beverages, you provide oral bacteria with additional fuel to make acids that erode your teeth. And drinking soda or other acidic beverages throughout the day contributes to a constant acid bath on the teeth.

Feeding an infant before bedtime

When infants are given goodnight bottles containing milk, formula, juice, or other sugar-rich liquids, they stay on their teeth for hours, feeding cavity-causing germs. This injury is frequently referred to as baby bottle teeth decay.

Inadequate brushing

If you don’t brush your teeth twice a day, plaque builds quickly, and the initial stages of deterioration might begin.

Lack of fluoride

Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, can reverse the earliest stages of tooth decay. Due to its dental benefits, fluoride is added to numerous public water systems. Additionally, it is a typical component in toothpaste and mouthwash. However, bottled water does not typically contain fluoride.

Worn fillings or dental devices

Dental fillings might weaken, begin to degrade or develop sharp edges over time. This makes it easier for plaque to form and more difficult to remove. When dental appliances no longer fit properly, cavities can form below them.


Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause stomach acid to flow into the mouth (reflux), causing substantial tooth erosion and destruction. This exposes more dentin to assault by bacteria, generating tooth decay. Your dentist may propose that you contact your doctor to see if stomach reflux is the reason for your enamel loss.

Eating disorders

Anorexia and bulimia are associated with tooth degradation and cavities. Repeated vomiting (purging) causes stomach acid to wash over the teeth and begin eroding the enamel. Eating disorders also might interfere with saliva production.

Signs of a tooth cavity

Tooth cavities can often cause uncomfortable symptoms that indicate it’s time to see your dentist. Here are five common symptoms to look out for:

Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures 

If you experience severe discomfort when drinking hot coffee or eating ice cream, this sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures may signal that your dental enamel has worn away, exposing the nerve inside of your tooth. This indicates that a cavity has developed.

Pain while chewing 

Chewing should be a comfortable, pain-free experience. If you experience pain when chewing, it may indicate a cavity. As the cavity progresses in size, it may become increasingly painful, making it difficult to eat and speak normally.

Visible holes or stains on teeth

Cavities can cause visible holes or stains on teeth. If you observe any changes in the appearance of your teeth, you must get dental care. Your dentist can diagnose the problem and suggest the most effective treatment.

Bad breath (halitosis)

Cavities can cause bad breath because germs in the mouth produce a foul odor. It’s time to visit the dentist if you have persistent foul breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth. They can help diagnose the problem and recommend the most suitable treatment.

Sweet or foul taste in the mouth 

If you have a persistent sweet or foul taste in your mouth, it may indicate the presence of bacteria that cause cavities. These bacteria produce substances that alter your mouth’s flavor and lead to cavities.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you must visit your dentist as soon as possible. Early treatment can help prevent more severe problems and maintain your oral health.

Diagnosis of tooth cavities

The best approach to catching cavities early is to have twice-yearly dental examinations. Your dentist will use various instruments to examine your teeth. If a tooth has a cavity, it feels softer on probing. You may also need dental X-rays. X-rays reveal cavities before the decay becomes apparent.

Tooth cavity treatments

Regular exams can point out cavities and other oral disorders before they develop troublesome symptoms and lead to more severe problems. Early diagnosis helps in reversing tooth decay and preventing its progression. If a cavity is treated before it becomes painful, you will likely not require substantial therapy.

The treatment of cavities depends on their severity and your specific condition. Treatment options include:

Fluoride treatments

If your cavity recently started, a fluoride treatment may help rebuild enamel and reverse a cavity in the very early stages. Fluoride treatments may include a liquid, gel, foam, or varnish painted onto the teeth or placed in a small tray that fits the teeth.


Once a cavity forms in a tooth, dentists drill out the decayed tissue and fill the cavity. Dental fillings are made up of silver amalgam, composite resin, and gold.


For severe decay or weakened teeth, you may require a crown. This custom-fitted covering replaces the entire natural crown of your tooth. Your dentist removes all decayed tooth material and a portion of the healthy tooth to guarantee a proper fit.

Crowns may be fabricated from gold, high-strength porcelain, resin, porcelain fused to metal, or other substances.

Root canal

A root canal is a treatment for toothache caused by tooth decay. Endodontists are dental specialists who treat issues affecting the root of a tooth. During a root canal, this healthcare professional removes the pulp, which contains painful nerve endings. The tooth cavity is then closed after filling.

Dental extractions

Some badly decaying teeth can no longer be repaired and must be removed. Extracting a tooth can result in a space that permits the surrounding teeth to shift. Dentists advise getting a denture, bridge or dental implant to cover the gap.

Complications of dental cavities

Cavities caused by tooth decay can result in several complications. The bacteria in dental plaque can harm the teeth, the gums, and the dental bones. In severe cases, teeth and gums may develop painful dental abscesses.

Some of the complications include:

  • Damage and even fracture of the tooth. Tooth loss and loosening may also occur.
  • Gum disease or gingivitis may develop, characterized by gum pain and inflammation. The gums become red and swollen and may bleed when brushed or handled.
  • Children and adults may be compelled to miss school or work due to toothache caused by complications of cavities. In addition, decay can inhibit eating and even impede development and growth.

Prevention of dental cavities

tooth cavity

To prevent tooth cavities:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice daily. Ideally, brush with fluoride-containing toothpaste 30 minutes after each meal and especially before bed.
  • Use dental floss or interdental cleaners to clean between your teeth daily.
  • Utilize a fluoride-containing mouthwash daily. Some rinses also contain antiseptic ingredients that kill plaque-causing bacteria.
  • Consume nutritious, balanced meals and limit your snacking. Avoid sugary and carbohydrate-rich foods such as candy, pretzels, and chips, which can adhere to the surface of your teeth. If you consume sticky foods, rinse immediately afterward and brush your teeth 30 minutes after the meal.
  • Ask your dentist about applying dental sealants (a plastic protective coating) to the chewing surfaces of your molars to protect them from decay.
  • Drink fluoridated water. Children must drink at least one fluid ounce of fluoridated water daily to prevent tooth decay.
  • Regular dental visits should include professional cleanings and oral exams.


Dental cavities are a serious problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. If you have cavity symptoms, such as toothache, sensitivity, or bad breath, it’s time to see your dentist. At Stellar Dental, we take care of your tooth and make sure that it is healthy and strong for you to use for many years to come. You can book an appointment here.

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