Cavities/tooth decay

Cavities are permanently damaged areas in the hard surface of your teeth that develop into tiny openings or holes. Cavities, also called tooth decay or caries, are caused by a combination of factors, including bacteria in your mouth, frequent snacking, sipping sugary drinks, and not cleaning your teeth well.

Cavities and tooth decay are among the world's most common health problems. They're especially common in children, teenagers and older adults. But anyone who has teeth can get cavities, including infants.

If cavities aren't treated, they get larger and affect deeper layers of your teeth. They can lead to severe toothache, infection and tooth loss. Regular dental visits and good brushing and flossing habits are your best protection against cavities and tooth decay.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

The signs and symptoms of cavities vary, depending on their extent and location. When a cavity is just beginning, you may not have any symptoms at all. As the decay gets larger, it may cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Toothache
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something sweet, hot or cold
  • Visible holes or pits in your teeth
  • Brown, black or white staining on any surface of a tooth
  • Pain when you bite down

When to see a dentist

You may not be aware that a cavity is forming. That's why it's important to have regular dental checkups and cleanings, even when your mouth feels fine. However, if you experience toothache or mouth pain, see your dentist as soon as possible.

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