Dentistry
Cosmetic
Product Reviews
Updated on August 16, 2022

What to Do if You Have a Hole in Your Tooth

NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links. Advertising Disclosure.

What Causes Holes in Teeth?

There are a few common causes for holes in teeth, including trauma, teeth grinding (bruxism), and/or cavities (decay). However, the main cause of holes in teeth is tooth decay.

In the early stages, a cavity is a small hole in the tooth. This cavity will get larger without treatment.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 92% of adults 20 to 64 have had dental caries in their permanent teeth.

The human mouth is full of bacteria that create a film over our teeth known as dental plaque. When we consume food and beverages that are high in sugar, the bacteria in plaque break down the sugars in foods we eat into an acid, which essentially creates holes in teeth.

woman in pain with one hand on cheek

Summary

Cavities start out as small holes in teeth but can grow rapidly if left untreated.

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is the breakdown of tooth structure caused by acids made from bacteria.

Bacteria and food debris left behind from poor brushing create a film that is soft and sticky. It is called plaque.

class ii cavity

When plaque builds up, problems arise, including holes in the teeth and even gum disease. Tooth decay can be a problem for people of all ages, including children, teens, and adults. 

Summary

Tooth decay is caused by plaque buildup. If left untreated, gum disease and other oral health issues can develop.

Symptoms of Tooth Decay

You may not know if you have holes in your teeth because tooth decay doesn’t always cause pain.

Here are the most common symptoms associated with dental caries, or holes in the teeth:

  • Toothache — any pain that keeps you up at night or is sharp from time to time (without other obvious causes) can be a sign of tooth decay
  • Tooth sensitivity — feelings of tenderness or pain while eating or drinking things that are hot, cold, or sweet
  • Spots on the teeth that are black, brown, or yellow
  • Chipped or fractured teeth
  • Food getting stuck between teeth
  • Bad breath
  • An unpleasant taste in the mouth

Summary

The primary indicators of tooth decay are persistent toothaches, sensitivity to hot/cold, and dark spots on teeth.

What to Do if You Have a Hole in Your Tooth

If you suspect that you have a hole in your tooth, call your dentist immediately. General dentists will generally use an x-ray to determine the extent of tooth decay.

Treatment options for tooth decay include:

  • A filling or crown — this is the process of removing dental decay and then either filling the tooth or covering the tooth with a crown.
  • Root canal — when tooth decay spreads to the middle of the tooth where the blood and nerves are, a root canal may be the only option to remove the decay and save your tooth from extraction.
  • Tooth removal — when a tooth is so badly decayed that it can’t be restored, your dentist might recommend removing the tooth and replacing it with a partial denture, implant, or bridge.

Summary

Treatment for tooth holes include fillings, a root canal, or complete tooth removal (depending on the severity of decay).

How to Prevent Tooth Decay & Holes in Teeth

Some people may think that only kids get tooth decay. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), children are at a higher risk of tooth decay than adults, but we are all at risk of tooth decay for our entire lives.

There are some easy things that can be done daily to prevent cavities and plaque buildup, including: 

  • Getting regular dental check-ups
  • Snacking on foods that aren’t high in sugar
  • Reducing how many sugary drinks you consume
  • Practicing good dental hygiene and brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Whenever possible, drink water with fluoride in it as a way to strengthen your tooth enamel
  • If you are experiencing persistent dry mouth, visit your dentist; saliva helps protect your teeth against cavities
  • Cleaning between your teeth daily with floss 
  • Rinse with mouthwash daily
  • Minimizing the number of times you snack throughout the day

According to Dr. Khushbu Aggarwal, one of NewMouth's in-house dentists, "it isn't just about what you are eating or drinking, but also how often. For example, it's best to finish a sugary beverage quickly and in one sitting, rather than sipping it throughout the day, because this minimizes the number of insults (i.e., pH drops) your teeth experience."

Fluoride

Fluoride is a mineral that can help stop tooth decay from progressing. Fluoride can even reverse or stop early tooth decay. Fluoride helps protect teeth by strengthening the tooth enamel and helping to make teeth more resistant to acids from plaque that cause tooth decay.

If your dentist thinks you need more fluoride, he/she may apply a fluoride gel or varnish to your teeth, prescribe fluoride tablets, or recommend a fluoride mouth rinse.

Ask your dentist about using supplemental fluoride, which strengthens teeth.

You can also ask about sealants, which are protective coatings that can be put on the chewing surfaces of your back teeth. This is the area where decay typically starts. Sealants can help protect your teeth from decay. Sealants are typically placed as a child's permanent molars erupt, usually around the ages of 6 to 12 months.

Summary

Optimal oral care is essential for preventing cavities/tooth holes. Fluoride supplements and sealants may also help. If you are concerned, ask your dentist about preventive care options.

4 Sources Cited
Last updated on August 16, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Tooth decay. (n.d.). NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tooth-decay/
  2. Cavities. (n.d.). Mouth Healthy, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/c/cavities
  3. Dental Caries in Adults (Age 20 to 64). (n.d.). NIH, https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/dental-caries/adults
  4. Dr. Roger Lucas, DDS, https://www.thedentistdad.com/snackguide/
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram