A Complete Analysis On What Does A Cavity Look Like

what does a cavity look like
Photo from Shutterstock

While at times contributed by general users, our content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. We pride ourselves on our high-quality content and strive towards offering expertise while being authoritative. Our reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students.


Cavity or tooth decay is the worst dental nightmare of a person. To say the very least, they are highly discomforting and painful.

Also, unlike popular notions, it is not necessary that tooth decay or cavities will only form and affect children’s teeth. It can affect people of any age group. However, knowing what a cavity looks like can help detect the cavity at an early stage.

Read on this article to know what does a cavity look like, how to prevent cavities and how tooth decay and cavities can be treated.

A. How is Cavity Formed?

Teeth cavities form when food debris is left behind after eating.

The bacteria in our mouth act on the starchy substances in the food and form a sticky yellow substance called plaque. These bacteria, plaque, and food particles create acid in the mouth and this acid eventually starts to corrode the enamel. That is when cavities start to form in your mouth.

Plaque on the gum line can make them more susceptible to gum infections.

The tooth enamel is the hardest part of your body. However, the acid is so strong that it is capable of damaging that enamel layer.

shutterstock 1719544423
Photo from Shutterstock

B. What Does a Cavity Look Like?

To know what does a cavity look like, you’ll have to take a good hard look in the mirror and carefully observe your teeth.

In its early stages, a developing cavity or tooth decay starts with a film of a yellow substance on your teeth called plaque.

This thin film might also appear on the edges of your gums or on the gum line which can cause swelling and inflammation. This is known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is a major cause of cavity development.

Then, you might start seeing tiny white spots on your teeth. This is called demineralization, which is the process when our teeth start losing important minerals and is the initial stage of tooth decay.

Developing tooth decay might look like some discolored brown substance on your teeth, which is easily visible for the naked eye to see. This is an early indication of what does a cavity look like.

Tooth discoloration is one of the most obvious signs of approaching tooth decay and cavity. Some food substances might also cause it, but it is best to get those spots checked out by a dentist if they are brown, black, or bright white.

Further, if you start to see a tiny hole or tiny holes on the surface of your teeth, then this is when it begins to go down. The small hole is what is known as a tooth cavity. This hole becomes very visible after a certain amount of time and hampers one’s tooth structure. The holes can be very small or can cover an entire tooth.

Now you know exactly what does a cavity look like.

C. What Does a Cavity Look Like on X-Ray?

For a dentist, it might be necessary to look for a cavity on an x-ray to get extra confirmation that your mouth is becoming a victim of tooth decay and cavities.

On x-rays, a cavity might appear as a dark spot or a relatively dark area. If you’ve had a history of tooth decay and have a filling on any of your teeth, then it would appear as a relatively brighter area. X-rays give a better indication of what does a cavity look like.

D. How to Know if You Have a Cavity or Tooth Decay?

If you know what does a cavity look like, then you would easily be able to know if you have one.

But, there are also a few other signs which might not be visible to you. Here are a few common symptoms to watch out fo,r which can indicate cavities in your teeth.

1. Tooth Sensitivity

A highly painful sensation and discomfort you experience when eating something very hot or cold are caused by sensitive teeth.

shutterstock 673633999
Photo from Shutterstock

Here, knowing what a cavity feels like is more important than knowing what does a cavity look like.

If you start to experience tooth sensitivity all of a sudden, when you have never experienced it before, it might be one of the symptoms of your teeth falling to decay. Experiencing tooth sensitivity is the closest description to what will a cavity feel like. It would be uncommon to experience tooth sensitivity in a cavity’s early stages since initially, the cavity-causing bacteria hampers your enamel. For you to experience sensitivity, it would need to reach the tooth’s nerve endings and blood vessels first.

2. Complications in Your Gums

yingpis kalayom By1szZOVpHg unsplash
Photo by Yingpis Kalayom on Unsplash

The bacteria which is acting on your teeth might also start affecting your gums, or it could be the other way round (as it happens in gingivitis). And when that happens, you could experience bleeding gums and might even notice swollen gums around one tooth.

3. Toothache

Whenever someone experiences a toothache, the first thought that comes to their mind is that they have a cavity. This might not always be true, but this is exactly what the toothache is pointing toward in most cases.

engin akyurt NKTJCOHzrUM unsplash
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

It can be a throbbing pain or can be triggered when you eat something hot or cold.

4. Bad Breath

You could have a bad breath because you didn’t brush your teeth this morning, or, it could be something more serious.

shutterstock 1934218991
Image from Shutterstock

A bad breath that does not go away even after regular brushing and after using mouthwash can be a sign of gum disease or cavities.

5. Dark Spots

If you start seeing brown and slightly discolored spots on your teeth, it could be a very likely sign that your teeth are starting to decay. At this stage, you can see what does a cavity look like.

6. Hole in Your Teeth

It might not be one of the early signs of cavities, but a hole in the tooth is a very clear sign of cavities forming in your teeth.

Small pits or holes in your teeth are created by the bacteria that causes cavities.

E. Risk Factors of Developing Tooth Decay

A lot of factors come into play when it’s about who is more prone to having cavities and who is not. Here are a few common vulnerabilities and risk factors that might make you more susceptible to developing a cavity.

1. Baby Teeth More Prone to Tooth Decay

It is indeed true that a baby tooth will be more vulnerable than an adult tooth when it comes to tooth decay and cavities. The enamel of a baby’s teeth is relatively softer and is thus more prone to damage by cavity-causing bacteria.

Subsequently, this puts a baby’s tooth especially at risk of developing cavities. Knowing what does a cavity look like can become helpful here as it can aid you in detecting the early signs of a cavity in a child’s mouth.

But, because babies cannot identify what does a cavity look like, they need extra dental supervision.

2. Certain Areas of a Tooth are More Exposed to the Threat of Cavities

The top of molars and premolars are at very high risk of damage by cavity-causing bacteria.

These chewing surfaces are broad which gives the cavity-causing bacteria more surface area to act on. Therefore, they are a more prone area for damage.

3. Certain Food Items

29402352 various sweet foods and confectioneries
by Wavebreakmedia / unlimphotos

Sugary and sweet foods are the biggest enemy of your teeth. They are okay when consumed under a limit, but if you eat such foods beyond the recommended level, don’t act surprised when you start seeing symptoms of cavity development.

F. What Will Happen if a Cavity is Left Untreated?

If a cavity is left untreated, it can start to become a severe problem and without the help of a dentist, you won’t be able to get rid of it.

You can’t get rid of your cavity by brushing your teeth. We’ll repeat, you need a dentist to take care of it. If the tooth decay passes the enamel, then your dentist might recommend treatment methods like filling, crowning, root canal, and even tooth extraction in the worst-case scenarios.

G. How to Prevent Cavities?

Prevention is indeed better than cure, and in this case, less expensive and less painful too.

There are many methods to prevent a cavity, and the best part is that they are easy to follow.

Here are some easy prevention methods you can adopt to prevent cavities and maintain good oral hygiene in general.

1. Avoid Sugary Foods

It is the simplest dietary restriction you can impose on yourself. Eating less of these foods will not only prevent cavities but also provide a ton of other health benefits.

Certain foods like sugary beverages and candies can become a potential threat for your dental health and dentists recommend not eat them very often.

2. Fluoride Treatments

6853746 toothpaste outgoing of the toothpaste tube
by Wavebreakmedia / unlimphotos

This can include professional fluoride treatments by a dentist or just using fluoride toothpaste and fluoride rinse in your dental care routine. Using fluoride toothpaste and a similar mouthwash can help fight off plaque better than a regular toothpaste or mouthwash.

In certain places, tap water also has a good concentration of fluoride.

3. Chew Gum

Chewing gum might sound like the most preposterous prevention method for cavities. But the reality is far from this assumption, and chewing gum might be the best thing you can do for your teeth. Provided, it is sugarless.

Chewing sugarless gum after every meal can help clean off food particles from your mouth, reducing the formation and risk of plaque.

4. Adopt a Proper Dental Care Routine

candid WFsNCIn8OF4 unsplash
Photo by Candid on Unsplash

A proper dental care routine is the first step towards achieving perfect oral hygiene. It includes brushing twice a day, flossing, and using a mouthwash. Brushing with fluoridated toothpaste is especially beneficial.

5. Stay Hydrated

We don’t need to tell you the benefits of drinking plenty of water every day, but we do need to tell you is how it helps prevent dental problems.

manki kim 12Kb5ynfxso unsplash 1
Photo by Manki Kim on Unsplash

Staying hydrated will boost saliva production and prevent a dry mouth. Saliva is necessary to break down food which will give the bacteria less time to act on it.

6. Make Frequent Visits to the Dentist

Dental exams can help detect early cavity symptoms on your tooth and protect it from any damage. A dentist can also guide you on using the right dental products. They might even use x rays to identify symptoms and know what a cavity looks like in your mouth.

Now there you go, everything you need to know about what does a cavity look like. After the detection of initial symptoms of a tooth cavity, make sure to consult your dentist for proper guidance, medication, and treatments.

While at times contributed by general users, our content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. We pride ourselves on our high-quality content and strive towards offering expertise while being authoritative. Our reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students. -----------------------------------

Any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here