What Does a Cavity Look Like? Prevention, Treatment & More

Do you feel sensation and pain while eating your food? If yes, there might be a chance that you have a cavity! 

Visiting a dentist is something that we all want to avoid, right!

But if you’re feeling pain or some type of tooth issue, you have to visit a dentist. 

You’ll be surprised to know that cavities and tooth decay are among the world’s most common health problems!

How common?

Cavities are so common in the US that, as per the data of the National Center for Health Statistics, “Among adults aged 20-64, 91% had caries and 27% had untreated tooth decay.”

A cavity is one of those teeth problems which is hard to identify at the initial stages. And after some time, it can spread over your teeth and can cause severe damage to your natural teeth.

Life is short, smile…While You Still have teeth! 

Do you have cavities? Or do you know someone who has cavities? If yes, keep on reading to know everything about cavities.

Today in this post, we will tell you all about cavities in detail. From what a cavity is, its types to what a cavity looks like and signs and symptoms, we’ve included all the questions you might have regarding cavities. We’ve also explained how to identify a cavity and what is the right treatment procedure for a cavity. So keep reading till the end and get every bit of information. 

Let’s start with what is a cavity and what are its different types? 

What Is a Cavity?

A cavity, also known as tooth decay, is a hole that develops in your tooth. This decay can damage and affect both the outer coating of a tooth (called enamel) and the inner layer (called dentin).

Acids in the mouth result in a cavity by eroding the outer layer of the tooth (enamel). They usually start from a small spot but gradually become bigger if not treated well. And later, they can lead to toothaches, infection, and even result in tooth extractions. However, it’s hard to identify a cavity in the beginning as it doesn’t cause any pain initially. 

People of all age groups get cavities, and it’s one of the most common teeth problems

Types of Cavities

what does a cavity look like

Source: healthline.com

People who don’t know much about cavities think that it only affects the top layer of the tooth. But that’s not true! It can damage all layers of a tooth, and it takes time! 

A cavity takes almost three years to build in the outer layer of the tooth (enamel).   

However, the cavity spreads more quickly through the dentin (middle layer) to a pulp (innermost layer) which contains a tooth’s nerve endings and blood supply.  

Types of tooth decay include:

  • Smooth surface cavities: The slow-growing cavity usually forms on the flat, smooth surfaces of a tooth, which later dissolves tooth enamel.   
  • Pit and fissure cavities: This type of decay builds in the narrow grooves on the biting surfaces of molars. This decay also affects the front side of the back teeth.
  • Root cavities:  It occurs when decay forms on the root surfaces of teeth. Mostly older people with receding gums are more prone to it. This type of decay is hard to prevent and treat.     

How Do You Know You Have a Cavity?

Do you really have dental caries, or are you just making a normal toothache into a cavity? Let’s know the major symptoms of the cavities. 

Cavity Signs and Symptoms

Are your teeth cavity-free? Here’s how to know whether you have a cavity or not!

Identifying a cavity in a tooth is sometimes so tricky that even dental professionals use a mirror when performing patient exams, or sometimes an X-ray of the teeth is required. So detecting a cavity all by yourself is impossible!

But there are some ways from which you can know whether you have tooth decay or not. Here are the common signs and symptoms of a developing cavity: 


This is the first sign of the cavity that you may feel. Suppose you find yourself frequently poking your tongue up against a tooth with a throb or ache. This pain will increase and become severe with time. Sometimes this pain becomes acute when you eat something hot, cold, or really sweet. However, that totally varies from person to person. In the early stages of decay, some people experience mild or no pain at all.


Another major and common symptom is sensitivity. It usually occurs out of nowhere.  

So if you find yourself wincing or feeling discomfort whenever you drink something hot or cold, there are chances that you may have tooth decay. Similar to toothache, sensitivity also varies from person to person. For one person, this can be severe, while others may not feel anything. 

Discoloration or Dark Spots

One day while brushing suddenly, you noticed a white or black spot on your teeth. Yes, this is another sign of a cavity. Slight discoloration to a spot or stain on a tooth can indicate decay. These spots usually appear bright white, brown, or black, and the strain will not match the rest of your tooth.  

Hole or Pits 

If you feel or see a tiny hole, dent, or pit in your tooth, that’s one of the definite signs that you have a cavity in your tooth as these holes form because of the decay. You can feel these pits or cracks with your tongue. The hole might appear small in the mirror, but your teeth may be severely damaged from inside. 

Swelling or Bleeding Gums

Check whether your gums look raw, red, or swollen? This is another symptom of the cavity. So if you feel that your gum, especially close to the tooth line, is red or swollen or bleeding, you should immediately consult the doctor.          

Bad Breath

Having a bad breath can be a result of the onions you ate for lunch, but if it doesn’t go away, this can also indicate a tooth cavity.  

Basically, tooth decay is formed in those areas of teeth where food particles get stuck. Later this becomes the breeding grounds for bacteria. Therefore if the bad breath doesn’t go away even after you brushed your teeth and used mouthwash, there might be a chance that you have dental caries.  


Don’t assume that you have a cavity even if you have one or all the above signs and symptoms. You should always consult a dentist to confirm whether you have a cavity or not! 

What Does a Cavity Look Like?

what does a cavity look like

Source: cdn-website.com

Now you might be wondering what does the start of a cavity looks like? What do cavities look like in their starting stages? 

As we already told you earlier, it’s quite difficult to see a cavity in its beginning stages. Sometimes decay starts with a whitish or chalky appearance on the enamel of your tooth. What does a small cavity look like? In some cases, there are dark spots or discoloration in the beginning. 

There is no guarantee that you’ll see these red flags. So how do dental professionals know whether you have a cavity or not? 

How are cavities diagnosed? Apart from the regular visit of the dental clinics, a periodic X-ray can also easily identify tooth decay that could be a cause of a cavity.  

What Causes a Cavity?

Of course, there are some things that cause cavities to develop. Our teeth have a strong outer layer known as enamel, and they’re covered by a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. So when we eat food containing a high concentration of sugar, these bacteria turn it into acid. Later, this acid breaks down your tooth’s enamel and continues to spread deeper into the layers of the tooth. 

Here are some factors that cause the development of cavities:

  • Sugary, starchy foods, & drinks (fruit, candy, bread, cereal, sodas, juice, and milk).
  • Conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Medications like antidepressants.
  • Dry mouth
  • Family history of cavities.
  • Previous radiation therapy to treat head & neck cancer.
  • Receding gums.
  • No proper brushing and flossing.

Cavity Diagnosis & Treatment

what does a cavity look like

Source: bastillepost.com

So what if you have a cavity? What’s the right treatment and when to see a doctor?

Keep scrolling to know answers to these questions. 

Regular checkups and cleaning will help to determine the cavity in the early stages. Dentists also use X-rays to look between your teeth as they can show cavities before the decay is visible. 

Now let’s move on to the treatment of the cavities.

Yes, fortunately, there are some ways from which tooth decay can be treated. So basically, first, the doctor will check where you have a cavity. After this, they’ll see how much the infection has spread in a tooth. The treatment depends on how bad the cavity is. 

Here are a few methods to repair the tooth: 


When the cavity is caught in the initial stages, a fluoride treatment is used to repair the tooth enamel. The entire process is known as remineralization. With the fluoride treatments, a doctor also prescribed special toothpaste and mouthwash.     


A filling is used when there is a hole or pit in the tooth. The filling can be of different types, such as silver alloy, gold, porcelain, or composite resin. 

Don’t worry; all these materials are safe! American Dental Association, the FDA, and other public health agencies assure that all these materials are safe to use as filling. Still, make sure that you’re not allergic to these materials. 


Crowns are used when a tooth is badly decayed, which means there is not much healthy enamel layer left. In this type of case, the doctor will fit a crown, a kind of cap on the decayed tooth. These crowns are generally made from gold, porcelain, or porcelain fused to metal. 

Root Canal

When the cavity reaches the innermost layer of the tooth and damages it, then root canal treatment is used. In this procedure, the dentist will remove the decayed portions of the tooth and the nerve, blood vessels, and tissues. After this, a sealing material is used to fill the roots. In some cases, a crown is also placed on the infected tooth. 

Tooth Extraction 

Tooth extraction is the removal of the tooth. It is only done when the tooth is completely damaged, and the root canal is not possible. The dentist will extract or pull the tooth and place an implant. These implants will help to keep teeth from shifting and changing your appearance. 

Don’t want to go through all these procedures? Below are some tips to avoid cavities. 

Follow them and keep your teeth healthy! 

Also Read: 6 Dos and Don’ts of Teaching Your Children Good Oral Hygiene Habits

Ways To Prevent a Cavity/Tooth Decay

This typically includes making sure to remove debris, including food particles, that might remain on your teeth after eating or drinking sugary beverages.

Though you can’t reverse the cavity, you can definitely do some things to prevent cavities. You can follow some steps to strengthen your tooth enamel and avoid cavities.  

So follow and include these things in your daily routine:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride-containing toothpaste.
  • Use an interdental cleaner and clean between your teeth. 
  • Daily floss your teeth.
  • After eating meals or snacks, rinse your mouth with a mouthwash with antiseptic ingredients. It will kill the bacteria that cause plaque. 
  • Avoid frequent snacking and eat a balanced diet. 
  • Cutting back on sugary, starchy foods and drinks.
  • Visit the dentist for regular checkups & cleanings. 
  • Dental sealants to protect the chewing surface of back teeth. 

So, just by changing a few things in your lifestyle, you can keep your teeth healthy and strong. 

When to Call a Doctor? 

If you experience any of the below things, you should immediately contact a dentist or your healthcare provider: 

  • Bleeding gums.
  • Difficulty chewing.
  • Signs of infection.
  • Swollen face.
  • Extreme toothache or mouth pain.

Brush Your Teeth, Crush Your Cavity!

The key to preventing tooth decay and cavities is regular dental checkups and good oral hygiene. From using fluoride toothpaste and rinse, flossing to avoid sugary, starchy foods and drinks, just by following these small things, you can prevent cavities for a long time. And if you have one, get the right treatment from dental professionals. 

So the thing is simple: if you want to keep your teeth strong and sparkling white, you have to make an effort! Check the signs and symptoms and follow all the tips that we have mentioned in this blog.

So this is all about cavities and what does a cavity looks like. I hope this blog has given you all the needed information about dental caries and how to prevent and keep your teeth healthy for a long time. If you find this post helpful and informative, share this blog with your friends and family so that they’ll also get to know about cavities. 

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