What Does A Cavity Look Like? 12 Ways to Prevent Tooth Decay

what cavity looks like

Dental cavities or tooth decay are common issues of all ages.

It is a public health concern in most countries. You may not notice that you have a cavity at first.

If left untreated, it can impact the nerve endings of the tooth and can cause painful infections.

This issue will require you to visit your dentist immediately, or it may lead to tooth loss.

It will help to know the first signs of tooth decay before the worst symptoms occur. Knowing when to visit your doctor for a check-up will save you from spending more than you need.

We will look into the details about cavities or tooth decay and how to prevent further dental damages.

Early Cavity Signs, Symptoms & Prevention


What Is A Cavity?

Teeth cavities are the formation of a tiny hole and tooth discoloration.

Cavities start on the surface of the tooth, if left untreated, will get through the enamel layer and destroy the inside of the tooth.

The nerves are affected, and the developing cavity will start to cause extreme pain. Further damage will cause an infection from bacteria.

This can eat away at the enamel, nerves, and blood vessels.

A cavity or tooth decay can develop in multiple teeth or multiple cavities in one tooth. It is more common in children and young adults.

If a large cavity forms on a baby tooth that will fall out soon, the entire tooth is pulled out.

Nevertheless, developing tooth decay depends on the maintenance of the teeth.

Cavities can cause a lot of damage to your teeth. However, treating it at the early signs of cavity symptoms will save your tooth from visible damages.

In the past 50 years, there has been an improvement in preventing cavity development.

From 2011 to 2012, according to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 37% of children have tooth decay.

58% of adolescents and 90% of adults experience tooth decay.

A 2020 study on tooth decay concludes that this dental issue is now less common than it was a few decades ago.

Researchers point out that with better oral hygiene and the use of fluoridated toothpaste, you can improve dental health and reduce cavity risks.

How Do You Get Tooth Decay?

Tooth cavities can occur anywhere, but some areas are more prone to cavity development. Chewing surfaces of the molars can trap food debris in its grooves and crevices.

Moreover, food can quickly become trapped between your teeth.

When food particles stay too long in the teeth, it increases the risk of bacteria growing.

If you eat a lot of sweet foods and don’t brush your teeth well, plaque will form on your teeth. Plaque eats away on the tooth enamel and minerals in it.

A small hole will open up, which is a sign of a cavity forming.

You will experience tooth sensitivity when the dentin is exposed through the hole in your tooth. Additionally, the cavity increases in size gradually until the dentin becomes susceptible to bacteria.

When the cavity worsens, the tooth will erode and damage the pulp.

Nerves and blood vessels will be infected, causing swelling and pain within the tooth and gums.

What Does A Cavity Look Like?

There are visible signs of a cavity that you can look out for as it is starting to develop. White or brown spots on your teeth will appear on the outer surface of the enamel.

This signifies that your tooth is losing minerals to keep it strong. Subsequently, the gum line can become a little tender and a tooth aching as you bite.  

A cavity will also show as a small hole in your tooth.

It may grow more significant when unnoticed, and more bacteria will invade the cavity.

However, cavities can be asymptomatic at first and will not be visible to the naked eye. In some cases, you may feel a cavity before you can see it. 

Physical signs of cavities will include tooth discoloration or a dark area in the enamel.

Also, dark spots or holes that can lead to a weakened or lost tooth structure can develop. A cavity will show up as a dark spot or a shadow in an X-ray. 

Other common symptoms of a cavity include bad taste, pain, swelling, and tooth sensitivity.

When Do You Need To See A Doctor?

Regular visits to the dentist are essential in maintaining dental health. Routine dental exams should be scheduled twice a year, not only when you might have a cavity. 

Schedule an appointment when you notice a change to your gums or teeth.

Although, if you experience any discomfort, pain, swelling, and bleeding gums, this calls for an immediate visit to the dentist. 

The tooth enamel can repair itself, but cavities cause permanent damage.

Any sign of a cavity, no matter the severity, will need treatment from a doctor. If left untreated, the tooth structure will erode and need extensive repair. 

Some people may have sensitive teeth and may be relieved with sensitive toothpaste.

However, it may be a sign of a cavity if sensitivity persists. This will require a check-up with your dentist. 

Dental professionals will examine your teeth with a mirror and x-ray to see all the damage the cavity has caused.

Treatment of the cavity will include a fluoride treatment at the dentist if the tooth decay has only caused discoloration on the tooth.

A filling will be recommended when a hole forms on your tooth, while a root canal will be required when the nerves are affected.

Finally, a dentist may also determine that the tooth will need to be extracted.

How Do You Prevent Tooth Decay?

1) Toothbrushing

Brushing your teeth regularly or frequently, especially right after meals, can help by reducing the number of food particles sticking to your teeth for long periods.

This will prevent plaque buildup, the most common way to get a cavity.

However, brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste would be adequate.

It also helps to carry a hygiene kit that includes a toothbrush so that regular brushing is possible wherever you are.

This is especially helpful for young children that still have their baby teeth.

They need the guidance of a family member until they can do it independently.

2) Flossing

In addition to brushing your teeth, you should also floss just as frequently right after.

Flossing eliminates the food particles that can get stuck in your teeth, particularly in the spaces between teeth.

If left unattended, not only can this form cavities, it can also result in bleeding gums.

This is very essential since it’s also possible to get cavities in the sides of your teeth and it’s also easier to miss these areas when brushing.

Young children also usually need assistance with flossing until they can do it themselves.

3) Rinsing

Rinsing is also a beneficial part of any dental hygiene routine.

It can offer added protection from bacteria from building up, not only on your teeth and gum line but also in your mouth in general.

Ask your dentist for a recommended brand of fluoride toothpaste and fluoride rinse.

Rinsing can also prevent cavities, bad breath, and gum disease.

4) Drinking plenty of water

Staying hydrated alone has multiple benefits, such as preventing a dry mouth, keeping it moist for more saliva production, which your mouth naturally does to protect your teeth.

Drinking more water instead of sugary beverages will immediately improve health conditions, not just for your oral health but also for your overall well-being.

Some municipalities in various countries even have fluoride in their tap water.

5) Reducing sugary foods and drinks

What you put in your body affects your overall health. Depending on what you decide to eat or drink, certain foods determine how they affect your body.

Drinking more water and eating more vegetables over sugary foods and drinks will benefit you more in the long run.

With a healthy diet, you would be reducing the risk of many health issues, including cavities or tooth decay.

It will also lower the risk of the buildup of bacteria around your mouth, bad breath, sensitive teeth, and more.

6) Eliminate constant snacking and sipping

If you eat snacks and sip soda all day, you are exposing your teeth to plaque-inducing sugars for hours on end.

This undoes your tooth brushing and makes you more vulnerable to cavities.

Try to limit your frequency of snacking and brushing after if possible.

7) Avoid bedtime bottle feeding

Remember, feeding an infant milk or juice in a bottle at bedtime, especially if the child takes the bottle to bed, leaves too much sugar on the teeth overnight.

Set a time limit for feeding well before bed, and start brushing their teeth early to establish a good habit.

8) Consider fluoride treatments

Dentists often recommend fluoride treatments when a patient doesn’t get enough fluoride.

Other people who get fluoride treatments are those who are at very high risk of tooth decay.

9) Chew gum containing xylitol

Chewing sugarless gum containing xylitol helps encourage saliva production, naturally removing excess sugars from the mouth.

Additionally, enjoying a piece of sugarless gum after a meal can help remove food particles from the teeth when brushing is unavailable.

The Bottom Line

Early stages of cavity symptoms will appear as chalky and gradually show a discolored brown color.

Once you experience pain when chewing, this can be a sign of developing tooth decay.

Do not wait for a cavity to worsen. Visit your dentist regularly to maintain your teeth.

This will ensure that your tooth will be treated if you might have a cavity. Furthermore, getting special treatments or regular cleaning will prevent cavities from forming.

Once you visit your dentist, they will evaluate the severity of your cavity.

Options will be given to you for treatment.

There are also tips on maintaining healthy teeth. Your diet and daily habits contribute to the formation of cavities in your teeth.

By following a routine and a set of guidelines, you can prevent any dental damage.

The information provided here is for educational purposes only. Schedule an appointment with your dentist for professional medical advice.