Common Causes and Treatments for Cavity Between Teeth

July 13, 2023
Dr. Micahel Ammons Dentist in Summerville, Dentist in James Island, Dentist in Camden, Dentist in Charleston
Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Michael Ammons, DMD

Tooth decay is one of the most common dental issues. Approximately 80% of people will have a cavity by the time they are in their 30s. There are several types of cavities, depending on their location. One of the hardest to spot is an interproximal cavity because it is located between the teeth.

What are Teeth Cavities?

A tooth cavity is a hole that develops in the tooth due to decay. A cavity forms when acids in the mouth erode the tooth enamel. Anyone is susceptible to developing a cavity- but proper oral hygiene practices and regular dental visits can reduce your risk. Dental professionals also refer to them as dental caries.

There are three common types of tooth cavities, depending on where they develop:

  • Smooth surface decay: slowly dissolves tooth enamel, commonly develops between teeth in adults in their 20s. This is also referred to as an interproximal cavity.
  • Pit and fissure decay: forms on the chewing surface of the tooth or the front side of the back teeth, usually starts during the teenage years, and can progress quickly.
  • Root decay: most common in adults with receding gums because the tooth roots are exposed to bacteria, acids, and dental plaque. Can be difficult to prevent/treat without gum disease treatment.

How Common are Tooth Cavities?

According to dental professionals, cavities are one of the most common chronic dental issues impacting people of all ages. In fact, over 80% of Americans have at least one cavity by the time they are in their 30s.

While anyone can get a cavity, it is most common among children because most of them do not brush properly or regularly and are more likely to consume sugary foods and beverages. However, adults may also develop them. Many times, new decay can develop around cavities treated in childhood. Additionally, adults are more susceptible to receding gums, which exposes the tooth roots to bacteria and plaque buildup.

What causes a Cavity Between Teeth?

There are several factors that can cause or contribute to the formation of tooth decay, including:

Bacteria feed on carbohydrates from foods and beverages, converting them into acids. In addition, bacteria, acid, food, and saliva combine to create dental plaque, a sticky substance that forms a coating on teeth.

Proper oral care habits including brushing and flossing properly and regularly can remove plaque and bacteria. However, left untreated, plaque can dissolve tooth enamel, which creates cavities in the tooth. If not addressed early, the erosion can continue into the dentin and ultimately, the dental pulp.

How do I know that I have a cavity between my teeth?

There are several signs and symptoms of tooth decay, depending on the location and severity. In some cases, you may not have any symptoms at all. However, as the decay spreads, you may experience:

  • Toothache
  • Sensitivity
  • Mild to sharp pain when eating something cold, hot, or sweet
  • Visible holes/pits in tooth
  • Staining on the surface of tooth
  • Pain when biting down

In some cases, you may not even notice an interproximal cavity due to its location. The dentist or hygienist may spot it on an x-ray before it spreads.

How do I prevent a cavity between teeth?

Brushing your teeth can help a lot when it comes to cavity prevention. Unfortunately, brushing alone won’t prevent interproximal cavities because they are located between your teeth. Therefore, it’s important to also floss at least once daily. A water flosser is best for cleaning between teeth, especially if you have sensitive gums.

In addition to proper oral hygiene practices, you can reduce your risk of developing cavities by:

  • Reducing your consumption of sugary foods and beverages
  • Limiting between meal snacking
  • Reduce or eliminate smoking and/or alcohol

What Options Do I Have to Treat a Cavity Between Teeth?

There are several different procedures that can be used to treat an interproximal cavity based on the severity.

Recalcification

If detected early, and the cavity doesn’t extend far into the enamel, fluoride gel can be used to recalcify the tooth.

Dental Filling

If the cavity extends deeper into the enamel, a dental filling can be used to restore appearance and function. The decay will be drilled out and the hole will be filled with composite resin, porcelain, amalgam, gold, or silver.

Root Canal Treatment

If left untreated for an extended period of time, a cavity can affect the dental pulp, which is the center of the tooth. If this happens, the best course of treatment is root canal therapy. This involves drilling a hole in the tooth and removing the pulp. Then, the inside of the tooth will be disinfected to remove any remaining bacteria/infection and filled with a biocompatible material to support it from the inside. The tooth will then be sealed with a dental filling and, if necessary, a crown will be placed over it to protect it.

Dental Crown

A dental crown is a cap that fits over a damaged/decayed tooth to protect it. A crown is used if a cavity is too large for a dental filling or to protect the structure of a tooth after root canal treatment. There are several different materials used for dental crowns including porcelain, metal, porcelain-fused-to-metal, or composite resin.

Extraction

Your dentist will always strive to salvage the natural tooth when possible. However, there are situations in which extraction is the only option- especially if there is a risk that the infection may spread into the jawbone. There are two types of extractions: simple and surgical. The space left from the extracted tooth should be replaced as soon as possible with a dental implant, bridge, or partial denture to prevent further issues.

Ammons Dental By Design blog is proudly run by our South Carolina Dental Team. We love to share knowledge and tips about the best dental care and practices. Apart from running this blog, we offer general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, emergency dental care, and dental implants for the community in areas around Charleston, South Carolina. We have 4 clinics in Downtown Charleston, James Island, Summerville and Camden, SC

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Multiple Convenient Dental Locations Near Charleston

Ammons Dental By Design has four locations so you can find the most convenient office for your family.
Camden
1015 Fair St.
Camden, SC 29020

Monday – Thursday:
8am – 5pm

(803) 969-0365
F: (803) 432-2625
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Downtown Charleston
14 Lockwood Dr,
Charleston, SC 29401
(Suite A on the exterior of the Ashley House Building, across from the marina)

Monday – Thursday:
7am - 4pm

(843) 380-2734
F: (843) 577-4464
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James Island
1739-B Maybank Hwy.
Charleston, SC 29412

Tuesday – Friday:
7am - 4pm

(843) 380-8889
F: (843) 990-9504
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Summerville
1710 Old Trolley RD., Ste. B
Summerville, SC 29485
*Rotating schedule
Tuesday – Thursday: 8am – 5pm
Monday & Friday*: 8am – 5pm
(843) 380-8904
F: (843) 871-0617
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CAMDEN
1015 Fair St.
Camden, SC 29020
Monday – Thursday:
8am – 5pm
P: (803) 969-0365
F: (803) 432-2625
about this locationsubmit a review
DOWNTOWN CHARLESTON
14 Lockwood Dr,
Charleston, SC 29401
(Suite A on the exterior of the Ashley House Building, across from the marina)
Monday – Thursday:
7am - 4pm
P: (843) 380-2734
F: (843) 577-4464
about this locationsubmit a review
JAMES ISLAND
1739-B Maybank Hwy.
Charleston, SC 29412
Tuesday – Friday:
7am - 4pm
P: (843) 380-8889
F: (843) 990-9504
about this locationsubmit a review
SUMMERVILLE
1710 Old Trolley., Ste.B
Summerville, SC 29485
Tuesday – Thursday: 8am – 5pm
Monday & Friday*: 8am – 5pm
*Rotating schedule
P: (843) 380-8904
F: (843) 871-0617
about this locationsubmit a review
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