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People can get tooth decay and cavities at any age. Cavities are holes in the teeth developed due to the erosion of tooth enamel by the acid in the mouth. If cavities are left untreated for long, they can cause toothache and infection.

How Common are Tooth Decay and Cavities?

Tooth decay and cavities are very common among people of all age groups. Studies say more than 80% of Americans get at least one cavity by the time they are in their mid-30s.

What Causes Cavities?

Tooth decay and cavities result from plaque, a sticky substance that is a combination of bacteria, saliva, acid, and food debris in the mouth.

When we consume sugary foods or drinks, the bacteria present in our mouth converts the sugar into acid and promotes plaque formation. The acid present in plaque can erode tooth enamel and cause tooth decay.

Though everyone can get cavities, you are at a higher risk of getting cavities if you:

  • consume too many sugary or acidic foods.
  • follow a poor oral hygiene routine.
  • do not get enough fluoride from toothpaste and drinking water.
  • have dry mouth.
  • suffer from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
  • suffer from acid reflux disease where your stomach acid wears down your tooth enamel.

What are the Signs of Cavities?

In its initial stages, tooth decay occurs on the outer enamel and doesn’t cause any symptoms. However, when they are left untreated, the decay can progress into the dentin and tooth root, leading to the following symptoms:

  • Toothache or mouth pain
  • Bad breath
  • Bad taste
  • Bleeding gums
  • Facial swelling.
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold temperature
  • Redness inside the mouth.

Complications from Cavities

An untreated tooth cavity can lead to several complications. These include:

  • persistent tooth pain that interferes with daily life
  • difficulty chewing food
  • a tooth abscess or infection, which can lead to life-threatening complications if the infection enters the bloodstream
  • the formation of pus around the infected tooth
  • an increased risk for chipping of the tooth
  • weight loss or nutrition problems resulting from difficulty in eating or chewing
  • tooth loss that affects the aesthetics of a smile


  • Brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day.
  • Rinse your mouth with an ADA-approved mouthwash.
  • Visit your dentist regularly.
  • Get dental sealants.
  • Avoid frequent snacking and sipping of sugary and acidic drinks.
  • Eat nutritious, tooth-healthy foods.
  • Consider fluoride treatments.

For more dental care tips, schedule an appointment with Dr. Peter Yeh, DDS at Covington Signature Dentistry. Call our dental office at (253) 638-9955.

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