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Updated on December 12, 2022
5 min read

What to Do if You Have a Hole in Your Tooth

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What Causes Holes in Teeth?

There are a few common causes for holes in teeth, including:

  • Trauma
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of adults 20 to 64 have had dental caries in their permanent teeth.3

Tooth Decay Overview

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 soft and sticky film. It is called plaque.

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.

class ii cavity

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:

Risk Factors for Tooth Decay

Although everyone is at risk for tooth decay, some are more likely to get cavities than others. These factors increase your chances of developing tooth decay:

Poor Diet

Consuming too many sugary drinks and snacks increases your risk of tooth decay. 

When you consume food and beverages high in sugar, the bacteria in plaque break down the sugars into an acid, creating holes in teeth.

Lack of Fluoride

In addition to bad oral hygiene, lack of fluoride can progress tooth decay. 

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

Age

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), children are at a higher risk of tooth decay than adults. Older adults also have receding gums and worn-down teeth, increasing the risk of tooth decay.

Dry Mouth

Saliva helps wash away bacteria and keep your mouth clean. If you don't produce enough saliva, it's harder to remove plaque buildup on teeth. This leads to an increased risk of tooth decay. 

Dry mouth can be caused by medications, certain medical conditions, or simply not drinking enough water.

Complications of Holes in Teeth

It's important to address any problems related to holes in teeth immediately so they don't become worse.

Here are some complications associated with holes in teeth:

  • Painful abscesses
  • Infection spreading into surrounding tissues
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Difficulty biting
  • Loss of tooth structure
  • Tooth loss
  • Tooth damage/broken teeth
  • Poor nutrition due to the inability to eat

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 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 it and replacing it with a partial denture, implant, or bridge.

How to Prevent Holes in Teeth

We’re all at risk of tooth decay for our entire lives. Some easy things 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. It can also:

  • Reverse or stop early tooth decay
  • Help protect teeth by strengthening the tooth enamel
  • 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 dentists can 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. They’re typically placed as a child's permanent molars erupt, usually around 6 years of age. Sealants are placed on the back teeth, the permanent premolars and molars, and act as a protective shield in the grooves of the teeth. 

Summary

Holes in teeth are one of the common health problems. However, they can lead to serious health issues if left untreated. It's important to see your dentist regularly and follow their advice regarding prevention and treatment.

Last updated on December 12, 2022
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on December 12, 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. NHS. “Tooth Decay.” 
  2. Mouth Healthy. “Cavities.” 
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Dental Caries Among Adults and Older Adults.”
  4. Dr. Roger Lucas, DDS. “Practical Tooth Snack Guide.” 
  5. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. “Tooth Decay.”
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Children’s Oral Health.”
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