What Happens When You Have a Cavity

What Happens When You Have a Cavity

Both children and adults can get cavities, which are caused by erosion of the enamel and tooth decay. When the enamel thins, a hole forms that allow bacteria into the tooth. As the hole grows, it forms a cavity that must be cleaned and filled by a dentist before it results in tooth loss.

Your Tooth’s Enamel

The enamel on your teeth protects them against tooth decay and cavities, and it is widely believed to be the strongest part of the human body. This substance protects your teeth from damage while you are eating and chewing. Your enamel also protects the inside of your teeth, which includes the dentin and nerve of the tooth from acid attacks and bacteria. If the enamel starts to erode, you may notice pain and tooth sensitivity. If you have either of these symptoms, it’s important to schedule a dental examination to determine the cause.

How It Forms

Cavities most often form due to a wearing away of the enamel. This process starts with eating. When you eat or drink something, especially sugary and sticky foods and liquids, the bacteria multiply in your mouth. As the bacteria feed on the food particles in your mouth, they create acid. This acid can weaken the enamel on your teeth, which increases your risk for developing tooth decay.

Risk Factors

Certain conditions and habits can increase your risk of developing cavities, including having a disability and having crooked teeth or a bad bite.

  • Sugar – Eating lots of sugary and sweetened foods and drinks can increase your risk of developing cavities. If you eat sugar or eat a lot of starchy foods all day, your risk is further increased.
  • Improper Oral Hygiene – Removing all the plaque and food particles from your teeth is essential for reducing the acid attacks that lead to cavities.
  • Dry Mouth – If you have dry mouth, your teeth are not being adequately bathed in saliva. Without the minerals and other nutrients in your saliva, your enamel cannot replenish itself.
  • Lots of Prior Fillings – As adults age, their fillings also age and cavities can form around and under the fillings. Anyone with prior dental work, should adhere to a strict oral hygiene routine and regularly schedule dental checkups and teeth cleanings to preserve the health of their teeth.

Tooth Decay Process

The tooth decay process starts when the enamel thins. Depending on the degree of thinning and the hole formed, it could be classified as either a microcavity or a cavity.


As the enamel is worn away by persistent acid attacks and improper oral hygiene, it can thin, resulting in small holes. Small holes in the enamel are called microcavities, and they do not affect the dentin, pulp or root of the tooth. Under normal circumstances, these microcavities are corrected by the saliva in your mouth, which contains minerals and other substances that help replenish your enamel. Normally, microcavities require very little treatment, and they do not need to be filled.

Tooth Decay

Cavities occur when the enamel on your tooth has worn away. Once the enamel is gone, food particles and bacteria can get into the hole in your tooth. As the bacteria multiply in the hole, it causes tooth decay. Unlike microcavities, full cavities do affect the inner portions of the tooth and must be treated by a dentist.

Treating Cavities in West Melbourne

Our West Melbourne dentist can examine your teeth to determine if you have cavities. If you do, our dentist will recommend the appropriate tooth restoration treatment. The most common treatment is a filling, which requires cleaning out the decayed portion of the tooth and filling it with a tooth-colored filling that restores the integrity of the tooth.

Our Melbourne Florida dentist can help answer your questions about what happens when you have a cavity and recommend ways to reduce your risk. To schedule a dental appointment for an examination and teeth cleaning, call us at 321-724-1400.