Cavity – Tooth Decay – Rotten Teeth

San Antonio Dental Office

What is a Cavity?

A cavity is an infection in your tooth. Dentists call them “dental caries” & “tooth decay” and other folks call them “rotten teeth.” Although dental cavities initially look like stain, they are actually a bacterial infection. Obviously, this infection will keep spreading unless it is treated. Eventually, the infection can reach the tooth nerve and causes a painful toothache! Untreated cavity infections eventally kill the tooth unless they are removed and repaired.  What does a cavity look like? Keep reading to find out!

Cavity Tooth Decay Rotten Teeth

What Does a Cavity Look Like?

A Beginning Cavity Looks Like Sticky Dark Spots

At this point, you know that a cavity is an infection. Typically we feel infections before we see them. Likewise, tooth decay isn’t easy to see when it starts. In fact, people often confuse new cavities with coffee stain or wear spots.

Discolored Teeth

A Bigger Cavity Looks & Feels Rotten

Cavities can look like brown or black spots or like gray shadows deep in the tooth. Therefore, if you see a dark brown or black spot on your tooth, you may have a cavity. In addition, if you see dark gray shadows around metal fillings, there may be cavity growing underneath. Bigger cavities can be black and dark like mold on bread. Wondering what rotten teeth look like? Check out this patient’s before photos to see advanced cavities.


Discolored Teeth

What do rotten teeth look like on xrays?

Unfortunately, beginning cavities only show up on xrays when they are located between the teeth. In contrast, medium and large cavities show up on xrays as dark shadows in the teeth.

How Does Tooth Decay Form?

To begin with, bacteria live all over our teeth. As a matter of fact, these bacteria live off sugar and food from our meals. That wouldn’t be a problem except that they literally “poop” acid on our teeth after they eat. Without doubt, that acid is powerful stuff. Indeed, it dissolves tooth enamel! Enamel is the hard outside of the tooth. To give you an idea of how strong the acid is, enamel is the strongest, hardest substance in the body. It’s like a Superman substance. Unfortunately, this bacterial acid is enamel’s Kryptonite. If that doesn’t scare you into brushing more frequently, nothing will. Cavities form as the bacteria eat our food and the acid they make dissolves our teeth. Then the bacteria spread into the inside of the tooth. Once inside, they infect the nerve and cause the terrible pain we call a toothache. The pictures below show a cavity that had reached the nerve even though it still looked tiny on the surface. Read more about cavities.


How to Get Rid of Cavities?

Firstly, to get rid of cavities you must remove the infected part of the tooth. That’s the dark, weak part of the tooth that dentists call “decay.” Secondly, you must rebuild the tooth. That requires a filling or a crown, depending on how large the infection was in the tooth. Finally, if the infection goes into the nerve, a root canal will be necessary to completely remove the infection. Once the infection is gone and the tooth is rebuilt, it’s important to change your diet to prevent future cavities.

Endodontic Dentistry

How to Fix a Cavity at Home?

To fix a cavity, you must first remove the infection and then rebuild the tooth. Of course, if any infection is left behind, the cavity infection simply grows back. In the same way, if the tooth isn’t rebuilt, it will get re-infected and may also break or fracture. Unfortunately, both removing infection and repairing it require specialized equipment and incredible accuracy. Unless you are a dentist with a fully equipped office at home, you cannot fix a cavity at home.

That being said, sometimes tiny cavities can be “reversed” with fluoride. In the earliest cavity stages, only in the outermost part of the enamel gets affected by the infection. In those cases, if you stop feeding the bacteria sugar and start applying prescription fluoride to the tooth, it sometimes stops the cavity. The fluoride treatment can also repair the surface damage to the tooth without a filling. This is the closest thing to fixing a cavity at home and it is also the least expensive way to fix a cavity. The key is catching the cavities when they are still just surface infections. Early detection only happens when you see a dentist regularly for check-ups. You must have a dentist who KNOWS your teeth!

Tooth Decay: A Modern Disease.

Of course, the bacteria that cause cavities aren’t new. However, the sugar to feed them is new, historically speaking. When we look at teeth in ancient skulls, we see gum disease but NO cavities! Amazingly, rotten teeth are a modern disease. Obviously, we all love a little sweetness, but no one loves ugly dark spots on their teeth or toothaches!

Rotten Teeth are totally Preventable

Have you ever seen signs that say “Don’t feed the anmimal?” Suprisingly, the “Don’t feed the animals” method works to prevent rotten teeth too. In fact, preventing cavities is as simple as not feeding the sugar-loving bacteria.

Follow these simple suggestions to drastically reduce your risk!

– Eat less sugar & simple carbs: Limit foods like white bread, cereals, soda pop, juices, potato chips and sweets.

– Clean Your Teeth After Eating: Brush after every meal and especially after sweet snacks.

– No brush??? Swishing with water helps remove sugar until you can get to a toothbrush.

– Scarfing Allowed: Drink or eat sweets all at once instead of savoring them over a period of time.

– Don’t Drink in Bed: Don’t put babies to bed with bottles of milk. Milk contains a type of sugar as well!

– Remember the Goal: Starve the bad bacteria! Don’t let sugar sit on your teeth.

But I Don’t Have Insurance!

Obviously, a cavity that doesn’t hurt doesn’t feel very urgent. However, the key to saving money on dentistry is avoiding big dental problems.

Take this cavity quiz to evaluate your cavity risk level:

  1. True or False? Your cavity is continually growing. 
  2. True or False? Larger cavities require larger fillings which cost more.
  3. True or False? Cavity infections turn into toothaches.
  4. True or False? Cavities lead to tooth loss.
  5. True or False? Most people don’t mind dental emergencies.
  6. True or False? Most people don’t care if they lose teeth.
  7. True or False? People usually consider black spots on teeth attractive.
  8. True or False? Toothaches aren’t a big deal.
which cleaning type do i need?

Answers to the Cavity Quiz:

  1. True. Cavities are infections that spread unless they are treated.
  2. True. The larger the cavity, the more damage it does to the tooth.
  3. True. Toothaches happen when cavities reach the tooth nerve.
  4. True. Because cavities destroy tooth structure, they can lead to tooth loss if they are left untreated.
  5. False. Dental emergencies are painful and expensive. Most people dread dental emergencies!
  6. False. Most people want to avoid tooth loss and partial dentures if they can.
  7. False. Cleaner, whiter teeth have been shown to be more attractive to most people.
  8. False. Tooth pain can be one of the most intense pain experiences people have.

In conclusion, the three most expensive kinds of dental visits are as follows: Dental Emergencies, Dental Surgeries and Replacing Missing Teeth. These visits typically start at $1,000 and go up from there. Therefore, if you want to save money on dentistry, take care of problems when it costs $200 instead of $2,000. 

Click below to learn more about how we repair cavities


Repairing Decay, Defects and Hypersensitivity

When only part of a tooth needs fixing, a filling will do the job.


Repairing Ugly Teeth, Big Decay & Cracks. 

Crowns take care of teeth that need a major repair or makeover.

Sedation Solutions

Dread the Dentist? 

Imagine sitting calmly in the dental chair with absolutely NO anxiety. Sedation helps patients do this every day.

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