Tooth Decay

Dental Cavities: What Are They?

Dental cavities are when the areas of the teeth are permanently damaged, usually holes in the outer surface or enamel. They are also called caries and tooth decay. The cavities can happen to anyone who has teeth but are extremely common in young adults and children. There are three different types of cavities:

  • Smooth surface cavities – where the decay is on the sides
  • Fissure and pit cavities – where they are on the top bumpy bit used to chew
  • Root cavities – where they are below the gum line and on the roots

Dental Cavity Signs

There are symptoms of tooth decay but they depend on the severity and type. Most of the time, you won’t know about the decay at first.

As the cavity grows, there are signs of:

  • Sensitivity, such as to sweets, heat and cold
  • Toothache
  • Pain while biting
  • Black spots and visible holes

Catching the decay early is possible with regular visits to the dentist – every six months. Catching them early helps to avoid further damage, will mean you are less likely to suffer from pain and will help to prevent tooth loss. See your dentist if you have any aches or pains in your mouth.

The Development of Cavities

Cavities cause tooth decay. Over time, the hard surface on the tooth can damage. This happens from the natural acids, food particles and bacteria that develops into plaque and covers your teeth. The plaque is acidic and will eat into the enamel on the teeth and then into the dentin – the second layer that is soft and inside your teeth.

Without treatment, the pulp inside your tooth is the next part affected. This is where the nerves and blood vessels are and it can cause irritation, swelling and nerve damage. Pus can occur when the tooth decay becomes very advanced because the immune system tries to fight off the damage that is happening, which just causes bacteria.

Reliving the Symptoms of Tooth Decay

The treatment options depend on the severity and location.

Crowns and fillings:

A filling is completed by a dentist to cover the tooth’s hole. Porcelain, metal and other materials are used to make up the filling. The decayed part of the tooth is removed during the process and then the materials are used to fill the bigger hole back up. When more of the tooth has to be removed, crowns are used and are made specifically for you to cover the whole of the tooth’s top surface.

Extractions and root canals:

If the cavity spreads inside the tooth, a root canal is the next stage of treatment. This will remove the nerves that have been damaged and then fill the tooth with a filling. There is a lot about root canals being painful but they aren’t actually much worse than the traditional fillings.

When the tooth cannot be repaired, the tooth will need to be removed. If you would like, after removal a false one can be added.


Fluoride is a mineral that is natural and will help to strengthen the enamel in the tooth. This means that they become more resistant to the bacteria and acids that can cause decay and damage. The treatments can also help reverse any earlier signs that there is tooth decay happening.

Preventing Cavities

The best form of prevention is to look after your teeth. This starts at home but you will also need to see your dentist on a regular basis. Here are some tips of dental hygiene to look after your teeth and prevent cavities from forming:

  • Look for toothpastes with fluoride. This will help with the reversal of early tooth decay and fight against the cavities from forming.
  • Twice a day, brush your teeth. Do this before you go to bed and when you wake up. It is also beneficial to brush after eating.
  • Floss on a daily basis. This will help to remove particles of food from between the teeth so the plaque will not build.
  • Limit sweets and sticky food and snack as little as possible. This just leads to more bacteria and the carbonated and sugary products will damage the enamel. Use an unsweetened beverage to rinse your mouth after snacking to help remove the bacteria and food from the mouth.