Holes in teeth are caused by dental cavities, which are permanently damaged areas in the enamel (the hard-outside surface of your teeth). Cavities may also be called dental caries or tooth decay. Anyone with teeth can get cavities, from small children to older adults. They are caused by a variety of factors, including bacteria in your mouth, sugary drinks and snacks, and poor oral hygiene.
Cavities are one of the world’s most common health problems. If untreated, they can worsen and gradually affect deeper layers of your teeth. Once they reach the inner layer of pulp in your tooth, it can cause severe toothache, infection and tooth loss. The best protection against cavities and tooth decay is good brushing and flossing habits and regular visits to the dentist.
Types of Cavities
There are four types of cavities:
- Pit and fissure cavities – these appear on the top of your teeth
- Smooth surface cavities – these appear on the sides of your teeth
- Root cavities – these appear over the roots of your teeth, below your gum line
- Proximal cavities – these are between the teeth and can usually only be seen with x-rays. Your dentist will take scans of your mouth to discover which kind of cavity you have and how best to treat it.
Oral cavities are caused by bacteria feeding on food particles, creating acid that starts to eat away at your enamel. This process also leads to the build-up of plaque, which is a biofilm or mass of bacteria that grows on surfaces within the mouth.
The Signs and Symptoms of Cavities
The symptoms of a dental cavity depend on the type of cavity and severity of tooth decay. During the early stages, you’re unlikely to notice any symptoms. As the cavity gets larger and begins to wear through the enamel to the second, softer layer of teeth, you may experience:
- Sensitivity to hot, cold and sweet food and beverages
- Pain when biting down
- Visible holes or black spots on your teeth
When decay eventually spreads to the pulp, it may cause nerve damage. The nerve damage results in an increased level of pain, irritation and swelling. As your condition worsens, pus may form around the tooth as a result of your immune system trying to fight the decay.
Treatment will depend on how severe your tooth decay is and may involve:
- Fillings or Crowns – Your dentist may repair the hole in your tooth with a filling which can be made of metal or composite resin. Your dentist will remove the decayed part of your tooth with a drill and fill the hole. Crowns may be required if a large amount of your tooth needs to be removed.
- Root Canal – If the decay has penetrated through to the inside of your tooth, a root canal may be required. This involves removing the damaged nerve of your tooth and replacing it with a filling.
- Extraction – If your tooth is beyond repair, your dentist may recommend performing an extraction, which involves removing the tooth altogether. You can have it replaced with a dental implant or false tooth if desired.
The best way to prevent cavities from forming is to take good care of your teeth. This means brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing and visiting your dentist for a check-up and clean every six months.
Your Friendly Family Dentists in Melbourne
At Hawthorn Road Family Dental Clinic, we can provide quality general and specialised dental care services to people of all ages, including dental check-ups, dental cleaning and treatment for cavities. Our professional and friendly team of dentists have extensive experience in fighting decay and improving our patients’ oral health.
Book an appointment at our dental clinic today by calling 03 9533 0996 or contact us online.