What Do Cavities Feel Like?

Adult human teeth are highly durable and very strong and are meant to stay for lifelong if properly cared for and maintained. However, at some point in life, people can experience dental issues like those which weaken and erode the outermost protective layer of the teeth- the enamel, which keeps the teeth strong. One of these dental issues is cavities. 

Cavities are a common dental concern that every human being is most likely to hear about. But if one has never got cavities, how to know what cavities feel like? And what are the effective ways to treat them? Keep reading to know everything about cavities and get answers to such questions.

What are Cavities?

Cavities, also known as dental caries, are the holes that form in a tooth because of its decay by bacteria build-up. If cavities are left untreated, the bacterial infection can spread or penetrate the deeper portions of the tooth and further affects the tooth nerves. They cannot resolve on their own, a dental professional needs to examine and treat this dental condition.  

Types of Cavities

 All cavities do not fall into the same category. The tooth’s condition worsens if the cavities are overlooked for the long term. Various types of cavities can affect different areas of the mouth and be caused by a variety of factors. The three main types of cavities, that one can notice in the mouth includes:

  • Smooth surface cavity- Cavities develop gradually inside the mouth. It takes years for the acid produced by a dental plaque to slowly weaken and erode the tooth’s enamel. This kind of cavity is often seen in adults and appears like a tiny hole created in the smooth tooth’s surface.
  • Pit and fissure cavity- Molar teeth are used by humans to chew or grind the food they eat. It’s easy for dental plaque to develop on the chewing part of these molars. A pit and fissure cavity is a type of cavity that affects the chewing section of the back tooth.
  • Interproximal decay- It is a type of cavity that develops in between the molar teeth when food is stuck there and is hard to be removed with brush and floss.

What Causes Cavities to Develop? 

Typically, cavities develop because of an overabundance of bacteria inside the mouth which causes plaque formation and acid production that eventually wears down the strong tooth’s enamel and results in a hole in the affected tooth. However, other factors may have a role to play in cavities formation. 

Cavities develop slowly and are a result of everyday actions or negligence on one’s behalf for daily practicing good oral hygiene practices. People can get a cavity based on: 

  • their oral health and general well-being
  • the amount of saliva they produce daily inside their mouth
  • the abundance of mouth bacteria
  • the kinds of food they eat and the frequency of their tooth’s exposure to such foods
  • how they care for and maintain their teeth and gums daily.

A cavity-friendly environment may be created if one has a diet filled with more sugary or starchy foods and drinks. The bacteria inside the mouth tend to feed on sugars and carbohydrates- as such types of food are easily digestible for them. If the remains of sugary foods and drinks get stuck on the tooth’s surface, it invites bacteria to build up, which further converts these sugars or carbs to acids. After eating, the bacteria get rid of their waste products, which dentists refer to as an acid attack. Constant acid production on one portion of the tooth demineralizes the tooth’s enamel and over time causes cavities to develop.

What Do Cavities Feel Like

Who Can Get a Cavity?

 Cavities can form in anyone’s mouth, be it a child or an older adult. However, children are more likely to develop cavities as their oral care habits have not been yet solidified and they tend to eat more sugar-loaded foods and drinks. Adults can develop additional tooth decay in areas of the mouth where they once were treated for cavities when they were young.

Many Factors Can Increase One’s Risk to Develop Cavities. These are:

  • Receding gums that exposes more of the tooth’s surface to possible acid attacks and cavities (in older adults)
  • Prolonged intake of certain medications such as antidepressants
  • Dry mouth- It happens when saliva is not produced enough. Saliva plays a chief role in keeping the mouth clean and bacteria accumulation at bay. Some medications and certain medical procedures like chemotherapy can cause dry mouth, hence providing a cavity-friendly environment.
  • Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease- Stomach acids can come to the mouth and cause erosion of dental enamel.
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia- Are associated with a reduction in saliva production or deterioration of tooth’s enamel by stomach acids.
  • Family history of having cavities- Both youngsters and adults are more susceptible to developing cavities if their family members happen to have them too.

How Do I Know if I Have a Cavity, and What Does it Feel Like When Cavities Form?

If you are concerned about developing a cavity, you must be aware of how it would feel like. Here are some signs that indicate that something is wrong with your teeth and it’s important for you to soon consult a dentist, as you could be dealing with a cavity.

  • Tooth pain or sensitivity- You can experience it while you eat, chew, or bite down on food. When a tooth’s enamel wears down and erodes due to acid produced from bacteria build-up, it exposes the inner layers of the tooth including the nerves, which will make you feel the tooth’s sensitivity to extreme cold or hot temperatures and even sugary/acidic foods or drinks.
  • Small holes on the tooth surface- Due to acid attack of the bacteria, tiny holes can develop on the top of the tooth where the chewing is carried out, or on the sides or front surface of the tooth. You may be able to feel this tooth’s indentation as something rough or different while you run your tongue over it.
  • New discoloration or stains on certain areas of the tooth- Firstly, it appears as a white stain that over time turns into a brown or black mark. 
  • Bad-smelling breath or a bad taste in the mouth due to bacteria build-up
  • Bleeding gums or sensitive, swollen gums
  • Throbbing toothache or intense pain that does not seem to subside and facial swelling
  • Red and inflamed gums and inner cheeks.

How Can Dentists Help Treat a Cavity?

Depending upon the type and severity of cavities, there are many different ways by which dentists can help treat cavities. These include:

  • Fluoride treatments- It is best for treating the initial stage of the cavity. It involves remineralization of the weakened or damaged tooth’s enamel with fluoride minerals.
  • Dental fillings- It is performed when a hole has been created in the tooth. Typically, fillings are composed of silver amalgam, resin, or gold. 
  • Root canals– It is carried out when the cavities or decay has reached the innermost portion of the tooth-the pulp. The procedure involves the removal of the damaged, decayed portion of the canal, filling of the empty canal, and covering the tooth with a crown- for additional protection.
  • Tooth extraction- It is the last option when tooth decay is severe and nothing can be done to save the natural tooth.

How Can Dentists Help Treat a Cavity

Tips to Prevent Cavities

  • Practice good oral hygiene practices- This means twice daily brushing and one time flossing after a meal. After brushing, don’t forget to rinse the mouth with mouthwash.
  • Schedule regular dental visits for dental check-ups and professional teeth cleaning.
  • Use dental sealants- a protective coating, on the top chewing surfaces of the molars of children.
  • Drink or use tap water which is fluoridated water, use fluoride toothpaste/mouth rinses or go for fluoride treatments.
  • Eat healthy foods, including more fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer sugars and carbs.
  • Limit frequent snacking or drinking throughout the day. 


Consult an expert dentist to get rid of tooth cavities and achieve a healthy oral health.


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