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Cavities – A Comprehensive Guide (2022)

Excerpt: Not only are there different, “classes” of cavities but there are also stages of their severity...
Table of Contents

Cavites (dental Caries)

Cavities, in some cases, may not be large enough to puncture the enamel and can be prevented from doing so with better dental practices. However, if the cavity has broken through the enamel the cavity will usually need a filling or onlay to stop the decay from becoming worse. More serious cavities will require more complex treatments to stop the decay from spreading.


  • Cavities are so common, that the majority of the population will have had at least 1.
  • A cavity doesn’t need to be treated if it is considered minor.
  • You may have a cavity and not be able to see it, the dentist will need to take an x-ray.

6 Different Types Of Cavities

Class I

Class 1 cavities form in the pits of teeth, they appear on the biting surfaces of the teeth.

Class II

Class 2 cavities start in between the back teeth, including your molars.

Class III

Class 3 cavities form on the sides of the front teeth, but not on the biting surfaces.

Class IIII

Class 4 cavities form on the sides of the front teeth, but they include the biting surfaces.

Class IV

Class 5 cavities appear near the gum line.

Class VI

Class 6 Cavities appear on the cutting edges of the front teeth or the tips of the back teeth.

Severity Of Decay

Not only are there different, “classes of cavities” but there are also stages of their severity:
  • Incipient – The decay has yet to push past the enamel.
  • Moderate – These cavities have started to push past the enamel, but have not yet broken through.
  • Advanced – The decay has reached but hasn’t gotten through more than half the inner pulp of the tooth
  • Severe – The decay has progressed at least halfway through the inner pulp.
Cavities - A Comprehensive Guide (2022) - 1 - Smiles Dental Group

Symptoms Of Cavities

How advanced the tooth decay is will usually be a large factor in how severe the symptoms are:
  • Pain – A toothache is a very common symptom of a progressive cavity.
  • Sensitivity – As the enamel decays, the nerve will become more sensitive to temperature.
  • Holes or spots on teeth – Cavities appear as blackish/brownish spots, if they are advanced enough, there will be an actual hole in your teeth.

What causes cavities?

The main thing that causes bacteria is a result of plaque, acid, food, and or bacteria build up in the mouth. All these elements create a highly acidic environment. Other things that will promote tooth decay are:

An unbalanced diet

This doesn’t just mean cutting back on candy and chocolate, if you’re eating lots of carbs, i.e. rice, bread, etc. It may be time to look for other sources of nutrition. You may also have an acid-heavy diet, i.e. processed foods, high protein foods, etc. We would never expect anyone to have a perfect diet, just try to make sure you have enough variety so your diet isn’t working against you.


Tobacco products are notorious for damaging teeth due to the discoloration, acidity, and all the terrible chemicals cigarettes have. Smoking will also damage your other oral structures, not to mention it’s generally terrible for your overall physical health, and your finances. There are lots of resources and options to turn to get assistance for quitting smoking, and we always strongly recommend that you ALWAYS stay away from cigarettes and other tobacco products. 

Medications & Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can be caused by a number of issues, however, medications can have a large impact on saliva production. If you are taking any of the following medications, consults with your doctor to see if they are giving you dry mouth. If there is no alternative, and they do give you a dry mouth, make sure to stay very hydrated and drink lots of fluid.
  • Antihistamines
  • Antidepressants
  • Sedatives
  • Pain medications
  • Parkinson’s disease medications
  • High blood pressure medications
  • Antacids
  • Decongestants

Poor Oral Care

More often than not, decay happens due to lack of care. Plaque can harden into tartar in as little as 24 hours, so if you are infrequently brushing your teeth, you will give lots of options for the build-up to happen on a regular basis. When you wake up, and just before you go to bed always, brush, floss, and preferably use mouthwash.

How are cavities treated?

It will depend on the severity of the cavity, but there are numerous methods to treat cavities.


Dentists will use a few different types of materials depending on the placement and severity of the cavity.


If the cavity is fairly minor then an onlay, otherwise known as a “partial filling”, or “3/4 filling”, will be used.

Root Canal Therapy RTC

If the decay has infected the inner pulp, root canal treatment may be an option for you, this will involve the dentist clearing out the inner pulp of the tooth, and it is generally finished with a crown.

Dental Extraction

A dental extraction may be used as a last resort if it is severely decayed, or the other more expensive methods are not affordable for the patient.

How can you prevent cavities?

The solution for prevention is fairly simple, just be regular and consistent in your oral care, and do it at least twice a day. You should also book in for a dental checkup twice a year so x-rays can be taken, and any issues can be caught as soon as possible.
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