Filling cavities is one of the most common procedures most dentists perform. Nearly daily, we find a cavity during a regularly scheduled check-up that’s in need of a filling procedure!

While most people know what it feels like to have a cavity, not as many know what’s happening in their tooth to require a filling.

However, knowing a little bit about what’s happening in your mouth when you get a cavity can help you combat cavities in the future.

So, we’re going to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what’s happening in your teeth and arm you with the knowledge to keep your teeth a little bit healthier.

Before we dive into the why of cavities, let’s take a look at what, exactly, is happening when you get a cavity.

What’s a cavity?

Tooth Inner Anatomy Of A Cavity

A cavity is a spot of damage on your tooth enamel that is the result of tooth decay. This decay causes small holes in your tooth enamel. If not treated, these holes will grow larger and require more intensive procedures to fix.

The main perpetrators of tooth decay

The main villain behind tooth decay across nations is bacteria inside your mouth. However, bacteria has accomplices as well, including:

  • Constant snacking
  • Sugary treats and drinks
  • Poor cleaning habits

With all of these combined, you get tooth decay causing cavities in a three-phase attack:

  1. A plaque shield forms. In the first phase of an attack, a clear, sticky film begins to coat your teeth. This is caused by bacteria feeding off sugars and starches that are left on your teeth if they are not cleaned well. This sticky film can harden in hard-to-reach places, including beneath the gum line and turn into tartar, creating a shield for bacteria to operate under.
  2. The plaque attack begins. The main artillery of plaque is acid. This erodes the hard enamel of your teeth and then pushes into the softer dentin. Not only is dentin softer, but it also has tiny tubes that lead to the nerve of the tooth. And once the attack hits your nerve you get that classic, zinging pain.
  3. Plaque pushes its attack. If proper defences aren’t put into place, the bacteria and acid continue to erode into the tooth, drilling past the enamel and dentin and into the inner tooth material (aka the pulp of your tooth). Then, the pulp becomes swollen and irritated from the bacteria, compressing the nerve and causing even more pain.

Don’t let bacteria and plaque attack your teeth. Make sure to brush and floss your teeth two to three times a day, avoid too many sugary treats, and schedule regular dental visits to repel the attack.