Cavities/Tooth Decay: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

March 17, 2022


What Are Tooth Cavities?

Cavities, also known as tooth decay or caries are damaged areas in the hard surface of your teeth that develop into tiny openings or holes. This is one of the world’s most common oral health problems among children and adults. 

Symptoms of Tooth Cavities

Signs of tooth cavities vary depending on the extent of damage or location. When a cavity is developing, you might not experience any symptoms. As the decay grows, it may cause the following: 

  • Spontaneous tooth pain or pain that occurs without any apparent cause
  • Sensitive tooth/teeth
  • Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking
  • Visible holes in your teeth
  • Brown or black stain on the tooth surface
  • Pain when you bite something

What are the types of cavities? 

Tooth decay can affect all tooth layers and take several years to form on the outer layer of the tooth enamel. Cavities develop more quickly through the dentin to the pulp. Some of the types of tooth decay include: 

  • Smooth surface: This cavity grows slowly and can dissolve tooth enamel. People in their 20s develop this form of cavity between their teeth. 
  • Pit and fissure decay: This cavity forms on the top part of the tooth’s chewing surface and can also affect the front side of the back teeth. It tends to start growing during the teenage years and progresses quickly.  
  • Root decay: Older adults with receding gums are prone to this type of cavity. Gum recession exposes the tooth’s root to plaque. 

When to see a dentist

You may not know that a cavity is developing. That’s why it’s recommended to have regular dental checkups. If you experience a toothache or mouth pain, you should see a dentist as soon as possible.

Causes of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is caused by plaque, a sticky substance that binds to teeth. Plaque is a combination of saliva, food particles, saliva, and acid. The mouth has bacteria that convert sugar in the food into acid. Plaque starts forming on the teeth after eating or drinking sugary foods or beverages. This is why dentists recommend regularly brushing your teeth. 

When plaque sticks to your teeth, the acid slowly erodes tooth enamel. As the enamel weakens, the risk of cavities increases. 

What are the risk factors for cavities?

Some of the risk factors for tooth decay include: 

  • Sugary or acidic foods and drinks
  • Poor oral hygiene routine 
  • Not getting enough fluoride
  • Dry mouth
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia
  • Acid reflux disease

How are cavities managed or treated?

Treatment options for cavities depend on the severity of the problem. There are several ways to treat a cavity.

  • Tooth fillings: This involves removing decayed material from the tooth and filling it with a substance such as composite resin or silver.  
  • Crowns: For severe cases, a dentist may place a custom-fit over your teeth to replace the natural crown. The decayed tooth material is removed before this procedure. 
  • Root canal: When the cavity destroys the tooth nerves, the dentist performs a root canal to remove decayed areas, nerve tissue, and blood vessel tissues. The tooth is then filled and a crown might be placed. 
  • Early-stage treatment: When a tooth cavity is detected in its early stage, a fluoride treatment can restore the tooth enamel and prevent further decay. 


  • Good oral hygiene can help you prevent cavities and tooth decay. Here are some prevention tips. 
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. You can use floss or an interdental cleaner to clean between your teeth. 
  • Visit your dentist for regular oral exams which can help prevent problems or identify them early. 
  • Eat healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables which increase saliva flow and sugar-free beverages to help wash away food particles. 
  • Avoid frequent snacking. Drinking beverages help your mouth bacteria create acids that can damage your tooth enamel.  
  • Fluoride treatment. Dentists may recommend periodic fluoride treatment especially if you aren’t getting enough fluoride. 
  • Antibacterial treatment. For people vulnerable to tooth decay due to a medical condition, an antibacterial mouth rinse can help reduce harmful bacteria in the mouth. 

Arrow Dental Centre offers treatment for tooth cavities Nairobi. Schedule an appointment with us for a thorough oral examination.   

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