Updated on February 1, 2024
5 min read

Cavities Between Teeth (Interproximal) – Symptoms & Treatment

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Cavity Between Teeth (Interproximal Cavity)

When tooth decay penetrates enamel, a cavity develops. Oral bacteria that eat away at the hard tissues of teeth over time cause tooth decay.

Cavities can form on any exposed surface of teeth, including between them. The bacteria that form plaque and cause tooth decay can easily live on, between, and around your teeth.

Cavities between teeth (interproximal cavities) are more likely to develop if you fail to floss regularly. Flossing disrupts plaque buildup between teeth. Your diet and overall oral health also play a role.

Signs and Symptoms of a Cavity Between Your Teeth

An interproximal cavity may not be noticeable at first. You may not realize you have a cavity between your teeth until it causes pain.

Depending on the exact location and how long the decay has been spreading, you may notice the following:

  • A visible stain or hole in the side of your tooth, which may be white, brown, or black
  • A persistent toothache or one that comes and goes
  • Pain or sensitivity when eating hot, cold, sweet, or hard foods

It’s also possible you won’t see a cavity between your teeth. Your dentist will be able to diagnose it using a bitewing X-ray.

How to Prevent Cavities Between Teeth

While your dentist can easily treat cavities of any kind, it’s best to prevent them in the first place. You can do the following to avoid cavities forming between your teeth:

  • Maintaining a balanced diet — A diet low in processed foods and added sugars will provide less fuel for the bacteria that form plaque and cause cavities.
  • Flossing regularly — Flossing is crucial for removing plaque and food debris between your teeth. Brushing with a regular toothbrush won’t reach as deep into those spaces.
  • Brushing every day — Brushing your teeth twice daily is recommended to avoid plaque. You may also consider using an interdental brush.
  • Visiting your dentist for regular checkups — Dentists often schedule routine cleanings twice annually. These appointments are also occasions for your dentist to notice any cavities forming.
  • Using a remineralizing toothpaste — A remineralizing toothpaste with hydroxyapatite, fluoride, and/or other minerals can help replenish tooth enamel before it’s gone.
  • Using mouthwash — Mouthwash reduces the risk of cavities, bad breath, and gum disease. 

How to Treat Interproximal Cavities

Interproximal cavities can be treated in several ways, depending on their location and how far they’ve spread. Here are the main ways dentists treat cavities, from least to most invasive:


Demineralization and remineralization both happen to your teeth daily. Your teeth lose some mineral content every time you eat or drink, but your saliva naturally replenishes it.

However, decay-causing bacteria destroy more mineral content than you can gain back. This allows them to eat away at your teeth.

If you have a new cavity that’s still forming, your dentist can use fluoride gel to remineralize it rapidly. This restores your enamel to its normal state.


If the decay has already moved through your enamel, your dentist will need to treat it with a filling.

To place a filling, your dentist will clean away the decayed tissue. Then they’ll fill the remaining space with composite resin, metal, or another material.

Fillings are a standard and relatively fast treatment for cavities. Dentists can place multiple fillings in a single session.


In some cases, cavities require removing a significant amount of dental tissue. This can make placing a filling difficult or impossible.

For this reason, it’s sometimes necessary to cover what’s left of the tooth instead of filling it in. The covering is called a dental crown. It protects the tooth underneath from further damage.

Crowns are designed to mimic your natural teeth’ shape, color, and function. They can be made of porcelain or composite resin.

Root Canal

Root canal therapy, often called a root canal, may be needed for teeth with severe decay. The procedure removes the pulp and nerve endings from the tooth to the roots.

Once treated this way, the tooth no longer has soft tissue that can feel pain. However, your care provider will preserve the tooth’s hard tissue as much as possible.

A root canal generally follows the placement of a filling or crown, depending on how much hard tissue is left.


If tooth decay is left to spread long enough, the entire tooth may need to be removed. The gap left by the missing tooth can then be filled with a dental implant or bridge, or removable partial denture.

Tooth extraction is generally considered a last resort for decayed teeth that can’t be treated any other way.

Outlook for Interproximal Cavities 

Generally, interproximal cavities have a similar outlook as other cavities. They can be effectively treated in various ways, using procedures for any cavity.

Like other cavities, cavities between teeth benefit most from early treatment. The longer you wait to get a cavity treated, the more the decay will spread. This could lead to needing a root canal or extraction.


Tooth decay can affect any part of a tooth exposed to your oral cavity. This means it’s possible to have cavities between your teeth, also called interproximal cavities.

These cavities can be treated just like other cavities. They may require restorative procedures such as fillings and crowns.

You must brush and floss your teeth daily to prevent cavities from forming between your teeth. Flossing is especially important. It allows you to remove plaque in the hard-to-reach spaces between your teeth.

Last updated on February 1, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 1, 2024
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).
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  2. Diefenderfer, Kim E., and Jonathan Stahl. “Caries Remineralization Therapy: Implications for Dental Readiness.” Military Medicine, 2008.
  3. Cebula, Marcus, et al. “Resin Infiltration of Non-Cavitated Proximal Caries Lesions in Primary and Permanent Teeth: A Systematic Review and Scenario Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, 2023.
  4. Yu, Ollie Yiru, et al. “Nonrestorative Management of Dental Caries.” Dental Journal, 2021.
  5. Inquimbert, Camille, et al. “Microbiota of interdental space of adolescents according to Risk of Caries: A cross-sectional study protocol.” Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications, 2019.
  6. Hujoel, P.P., et al. “Dental Flossing and Interproximal Caries: a Systematic Review.” Journal of Dental Research, 2006.
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