Kate Brayman DDS

What is a Cavity Tooth?

What is a tooth cavity?  A tooth cavity, also known as tooth decay, is a damaged area in the hard surface of your teeth that develops into tiny openings or holes. Without treatment, cavities can grow larger and affect deeper layers of the teeth, potentially leading to severe tooth pain, infection, and tooth loss. Regular dental visits, good brushing, and flossing habits help prevent cavities and other dental problems.

Causes of a tooth cavity

Cavities are caused by a combination of factors, including bacteria in your mouth, frequent snacking, sipping sugary drinks, and not cleaning your teeth well. The most common cause of tooth decay is the buildup of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. When people consume foods and drinks containing sugars and starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel, leading to the formation of cavities. Not brushing and flossing regularly contributes to plaque accumulation and increases the risk of tooth decay. Regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene practices are essential in preventing plaque buildup and tooth decay.

What is the difference between tooth decay and a cavity?

What Color is a Tooth Cavity?

Tooth decay and a cavity represent stages in the process of dental deterioration caused by the same underlying issue but differ in their development and the severity of damage. Tooth decay is the process that leads to the weakening of the tooth’s enamel, while a cavity is the result of advanced decay, creating an actual hole or structural damage in the tooth.

  • Tooth Decay: This is the initial stage and involves the demineralization of the tooth’s enamel due to acids produced when bacteria break down sugar in the mouth. Tooth decay signifies the process that leads to the formation of cavities and is characterized by areas of enamel that may appear softer, discolored (white spots, brown spots), or damaged. At the early stage, decay might be reversible with fluoride treatment and improved dental hygiene.
  • Cavity: A cavity refers to the later stage of tooth decay, where the enamel has been sufficiently eroded to create a permanent hole or pit in the tooth. It’s the result of unchecked tooth decay and indicates the damage has progressed beyond the enamel to potentially affect deeper layers of the tooth, like the dentin and pulp. Cavities require intervention from a dentist, like fillings, crowns, or root canals, to prevent further damage and restore tooth integrity.


What color is a tooth cavity?

The color of a tooth cavity depends on the extent of decay and its stage. Initially, tooth decay may start as white spots on the enamel indicating demineralization. As the decay progresses, these spots can darken. Common colors associated with cavities include:

  • White Spots: Early signs of decay, showing loss of minerals from the enamel.
  • Light Brown: Indicates further progression of the decay, as the enamel continues to weaken.
  • Dark Brown or Black: Advanced decay, signifying that the cavity has reached deeper layers of the tooth, potentially leading to more serious dental issues.


Color change signifies the severity of the cavity and the urgency for dental intervention to prevent further deterioration. Regular dental check-ups can help detect and treat cavities before they develop into more serious problems.

What tooth is most likely to get a cavity?

Molars and premolars are the most susceptible to cavities due to their position in the back of the mouth and their anatomical features. These teeth have grooves and pits that can trap food particles, making them difficult to clean thoroughly. The complex surface area of these teeth provides an ideal environment for plaque accumulation and the bacteria that cause decay. Consequently, without diligent oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups, molars and premolars are at a higher risk for developing cavities.

Symptoms of a tooth cavity

Indications you may have a  tooth cavity include:

  • Toothache: Spontaneous pain or if it occurs without an apparent cause.
  • Sensitivity: Pain when teeth are exposed to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks.
  • Visible Holes or Pits: Small openings in the tooth.
  • Stains: Black, brown, or white staining on any surface of a tooth.
  • Pain When Biting: Discomfort or pain during biting or chewing.
  • Bad Breath: Persistent bad breath not alleviated by brushing.
  • Unpleasant Taste: A consistent bad taste in the mouth.


Early detection and treatment are the key to preventing further damage and complications.

What happens if a tooth cavity is left untreated?

What Happens if a Tooth Cavity is Left Untreated?

If a tooth cavity is left untreated, the decay will progressively worsen, leading to more severe dental issues, including:

  • Increased Pain: As the cavity enlarges and affects deeper layers of the tooth, pain can become more frequent and intense.
  • Infection: Decay can reach the tooth’s pulp, where the nerves and blood vessels reside, leading to infection. This can cause an abscess, a pus-filled pocket at the root of the tooth, resulting in severe pain, swelling, and even systemic infections affecting overall health.
  • Tooth Loss: Ongoing decay can destroy the tooth to the point where it cannot be saved and must be extracted.
  • Chewing Problems: Decay and tooth loss can affect your ability to chew properly.
  • Misalignment: Losing a tooth without timely replacement can cause remaining teeth to shift, leading to misalignment and bite issues.
  • Costly Dental Procedures: Neglecting a cavity can lead to the need for more complex and expensive dental treatments in the future, like root canals, crowns, or implants.


Prompt treatment of cavities can prevent these complications, preserve the tooth, and save time and money on your future dental care.

When to see a dentist for a cavity in a tooth

Contact us at Dr. Kate Brayman’s dental practice on Long Island for a cavity in a tooth as soon as you notice any signs of tooth decay, including sensitivity to hot and cold, pain when biting down, visible holes or dark spots on your teeth, and persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms but suspect a cavity, scheduling a regular dental check-up is important, because some cavities may not be immediately symptomatic but can still cause damage. Dental visits allow for early detection and management of cavities before they become problematic. 

Kate Brayman DDS

Dr. Kate Brayman

Long Island Dentist at Kate Brayman, DDS

Dr. Kate Brayman is a leading cosmetic dentist serving Long Island and Woodbury NY 11797. A graduate from the New York University College of Dentistry, Dr. Kate Brayman brings passion and artistry into dentistry. She is certified by the American Board of Dental Public Health. Her professional memberships include the American Dental Association, the New York State Dental Association and the New York County Dental Society.

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