What Is The Difference Between Tooth Decay And Cavity?

People often use these two terms interchangeably. While they are associated with each other, tooth decay and cavity actually refer to different things. Decay happens when your tooth enamel becomes soft and damaged due to acids produced when bacteria break down sugar in your mouth. If left untreated, the loss of mineral will eventually lead to a hole in the structure or a cavity. Without treatment, these cavities can grow larger and may even destroy the whole tooth.

The plaque acids can also eat away at the next layer of the tooth called dentin. This can cause a root cavity, which exposes your nerves and gives you a painful sensation when you drink or eat. If you are experiencing pain near the root of your tooth, there’s a high chance that you are dealing with some form of tooth decay and must see a dentist immediately.

We at the Kyrene Family Dentistry believe that taking good care of your teeth is vital to your overall health and wellness, and that includes preventing the dreaded dental cavity. Here’s what you need to know about these conditions.

Causes of Tooth Decay and Cavities

Major causes of tooth decay are sticky, sugary drinks and foods. The more sugar you consume, the more acid gets produced. This then leads to erosion of the enamel. Just remember that plaque and sugar are an evil combination and together, they can wreak havoc in your mouth.

If you do not brush your teeth within the next twenty minutes of consuming a sweet snack, they already become vulnerable to damage.  Here are factors to watch out for:

  • Poor Oral Hygiene – Since we all need to eat and drink to live, there’s no way to avoid these habits. What we can do, however, is brush our teeth regularly. Carbohydrates remain on the teeth until cleaned. The longer food particles cling to your teeth, the higher your risk of having a tooth cavity. You should also include flossing in your routine to reach in between your teeth.
  • Dry Mouth – Normal amount of saliva is a crucial component of a healthy mouth. If you have a dry mouth with very little saliva, plaque tends to build up more quickly.
  • Bacteria and Acid – While many people don’t like to think about it, bacteria naturally live in your mouth. The problem starts when they make contact with carbohydrates and form an acid that eats away at your teeth.
  • Plaque Formation – Food particles, acid, saliva, and bacteria all combine to form plaque. This adheres to your teeth and builds up over time.
  • Medical Problems – Tooth cavity can arise from acid flowing back into your mouth from your stomach. Similarly, bulimia increases exposure to acid and tooth decay during frequent vomiting. In addition, there are certain types of cancer treatment that use radiation to promote bacterial growth, leading to cavities.

Signs and Symptoms

Cavity symptoms start to appear as tooth decay progresses. If you notice these symptoms, consult your dentist as soon as possible. The earlier you identify these warning signs, the easier and quicker treatment will be.

  • Pressure – Both increased pain and tooth sensitivity when biting down can indicate a cavity.
  • Pain – A toothache is one of the early signs of cavity formation.
  • Pus – This is a serious symptom that needs immediate attention.
  • Pits – Warning signs of cavity include a noticeable pit or hole in the affected tooth. However, some holes are trickier to find and may only be visible on a dental x-ray.


Just as you learned from your dentist on your very first appointment, prevention is the best way to keep the integrity of your teeth and avoid a cavity. There are numerous ways to keep them healthy, and a good way to start is to create a complete oral hygiene routine. It may feel overwhelming at first, but once it becomes a habit, you’ll be able to enjoy your beautiful smile for a long time. Here is a basic checklist of the core items you’ll need to incorporate into your daily life.

  • Toothpaste – This is a critical component for cavity prevention. Most dentists recommend using a product accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA).
  • Toothbrush – Everyone knows about the role of a toothbrush in cleaning your teeth, but many people don’t consider the variety that they use. A quick trip to the store and you’ll see various options. Choose one that can reach all the surfaces of your teeth. It’s also better to get one that has a tongue cleaner.
  • Dental Floss – Dentists can’t reiterate enough just how important flossing is. It cleans tight spaces where normal toothbrush bristles can’t reach. This ensures that every nook and cranny of your teeth are clean and free of plaque buildup.

Mouthwash – This is usually the final step in effective daily dental hygiene. The therapeutic mouth rinse will kill bacteria that can cause gingivitis and plaque. Moreover, it leaves your mouth