Cavities

What is a cavity?

The first stage of tooth decay is destruction of tooth enamel, the hard protective covering on your teeth. As the enamel is destroyed, the space left behind is the cavity.

What causes cavities?

Plaque is one of the main causes of tooth decay. It is a colorless, sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. The sugars in the foods we eat react with the bacteria in plaque to produce an acidic environment. This acidity weakens tooth enamel, leaving the tooth unprotected and susceptible to forming cavities.

Where are the most common areas to get cavities?

Where? Why?
Biting surfaces Plaque becomes trapped in the grooves of teeth and starts forming a cavity when these areas are missed during brushing.
Between teeth These areas cannot be reached by a toothbrush alone so plaque often builds up here. You may be more susceptible to this type of decay if you don’t regularly floss or clean between your teeth.
Root surfaces This is common if you have gum recession or bone loss because plaque builds up on the exposed roots of the teeth. Cavities develop quickly on these areas because roots do not have the same hard enamel covering as other parts of the tooth.
Around the edges of a dental filling/crown Plaque can accumulate in the crevices of older fillings and cause leakage. This ultimately weakens the filling and leads to decay.

How do you treat cavities?

We offer several different options for treating cavities:

  1. Tooth colored fillings
  2. Silver fillings
  3. Gold fillings

Click on the links above to learn more about each option, and be sure to check out our handy cavity treatment comparison chart. We're happy to explain these options to you and to help you make a decision based on your specific situation.

My cavity doesn’t hurt. What will happen if I don’t treat my cavity?

It is a myth is that all cavities hurt. In fact, the pain you eventually feel is from the advancing stages of the tooth decay. By the time you feel symptomatic on a tooth with a cavity, chances are, the decay is spreading deeper, damaging the nerve.

Once a cavity has progressed to a point where you can’t clean it effectively yourself, it won’t repair itself. Left untreated, it will ultimately result in tooth pain and infection, or in more serious situations, tooth loss.

What can I do to prevent cavities?

Brushing and flossing. Brush and floss every day to remove plaque buildup on our teeth. The American Dental Association recommends using a fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day.

Balanced meals with limited snacking. A healthy diet with limited sweets and acidic foods will improve your dental health.

Regular dental check-ups & cleanings. We can help by getting you back on track to maintaining a healthy mouth. If you are more susceptible to tooth decay, we may recommend fluoride treatments or even dental sealants to help you achieve a cavity-free mouth.

- Krystle Lim DDS, Santa Rosa Blank