West 85th Dental
8561 8A Ave SW Calgary AB T3H 0V5 (403) 246-5545

(587) 355-4332

chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down x phone location share chevron-thin-right calendar left-quote right-quote black-star-glasses-png eye book-appointment-maroon-icon-(1) types-of-services-white-icon-(1) location-white-icon next2 previous2 forward3 backward2 facebook twitter linkedin2
woman-with-cavity Hero

What Causes Tooth Decay?

Book Appointment

Tooth decay can cause a lot of trouble if not treated quickly but it can be difficult to spot without a dental examination. You may not notice any symptoms until decay has significantly affected you. 

Almost everyone knows what a cavity is, but what causes tooth decay? Continue reading to learn more about tooth decay, its stages of development, and the possible treatments available. 

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay (or a cavity) is damage to your tooth’s surface, causing tiny holes or openings to develop. They can happen for several reasons, but poor oral hygiene is prominent in the development of cavities. 

Tooth decay is one of the world’s most common health problems and is prominent in children and older adults. Cavities may seem insignificant at first, but the longer they go untreated, the worse they become. 

They grow in size and severity with time, affecting the inner layers of your tooth. This can lead to severe toothache, infection, or tooth loss, and it’s important to watch for the symptoms of tooth decay. 

Symptoms of Tooth Decay

With minor cavities, you may not experience any symptoms at all, but severe tooth decay can cause significant pain and discomfort. Common symptoms include: 

  • Toothache
  • Pain while eating or drinking something hot or cold 
  • Pain when you bite down
  • Visible holes in your teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity

Because tooth decay may not be immediately noticeable, regular dental visits (even if you feel fine) can catch any initial development. Also, daily brushing and flossing can help prevent tooth decay. Understanding tooth decay is important to protect your teeth, so what exactly causes it?

What Causes Tooth Decay? 

Tooth decay is caused by the formation of plaque on your teeth and typically develops in 5 stages: 

Initial Plaque Formation 

Plaque is a clear film coating your teeth after eating sugars, starches, and not brushing effectively. Sugar is present in many common foods and drinks you consume each day, including: 

  • Baked goods 
  • Soda
  • Fruit canned in syrup
  • Sweets & chocolate 
  • Sugary cereals & bars
  • Jam

When sugars and scratches sit on your teeth, bacteria feed on them, creating plaque. This can appear as white areas on the tooth where plaque is developing. 

Plaque can harden near the gum line and develop into tartar if it stays on your teeth for too long. A build-up of tartar makes plaque harder to remove and protects bacteria. 

Enamel Decay

Eventually, plaque will begin to break the enamel, one of the layers of your tooth. Your tooth’s surface may break with persistent tooth decay if your body cannot naturally restore its enamel. This creates a cavity needing to be filled by your dentist. 

Dentinal Decay

The more tooth decay persists, the deeper into your tooth bacteria can travel. Dentin is what sits between the enamel and pulp, and it makes up most of your tooth. Dentin is softer than enamel, so tooth decay can quickly affect it. 

Pulp Damage

The centre of your tooth, the pulp, holds tissue, nerves, and blood vessels. Once tooth decay has reached the pulp, bacteria can cause a formation of pus within the tooth. This stage of decay is severe, and if not treated, can lead to the loss of your tooth. 


If an abscess develops within your tooth, there are several symptoms you will notice, including: 

  • Severe toothache
  • Fever
  • Tender & swollen lymph nodes under your jaw
  • Tooth sensitivity 
  • Facial swelling

An abscess requires medical attention as soon as possible. The infection present within your tooth can affect other areas of your body, and this can be a serious health concern. 

Before you possibly develop an abscess, visit your dentist if you’re suffering from tooth decay and they can provide you with effective treatment. 

Young woman having her teeth examined after receiving a dental filling

Tooth Decay Treatments 

If you’re suffering from tooth decay, your dentist has several treatments they can provide you with. The type of treatment depends on the stage of tooth decay you’re experiencing, and what will most effectively help you. Possible treatments include: 

Fluoride Treatments

In the initial stages of tooth decay, your dentist may recommend fluoride. This may help restore your tooth’s enamel and is more potent than the fluoride used in toothpaste and mouth rinses. It can come in liquid, gel, foam, or varnish form. 


Dentists use filling when tooth decay progresses past the initial stages. They are artificial substances used to fill in the holes within your enamel caused by tooth decay. There are various materials used for fillings. 


Crowns are custom-fitted coverings to replace the entirety of your tooth’s natural crown. They are used when your tooth is weakened or has suffered from severe decay. Your dentist will drill away any decayed areas and enough material to ensure a snug fit for your new crown. 

Root Canals 

If tooth decay has reached your tooth’s pulp, you may need a root canal. Your dentist repairs your infected tooth by removing the diseased pulp and then replacing it with a filling. 

Tooth Extractions 

If teeth are beyond repair, extraction is the best option. You can receive a bridge or implant as an alternative after your tooth’s removal. 

While there are many treatments for tooth decay, prevention is your best method of dealing with cavities. Brush and floss your teeth daily while maintaining regular visits with your dentist

Deal With Tooth Decay at Its Source

While daily brushing and flossing can help prevent tooth decay, regular visits with your dentist are essential to maintaining your oral health. Dental exams can catch any decay in its initial stages, and your dental team can effectively treat your cavity. If you have any symptoms of tooth decay or need a regular exam, book an appointment with your dentist.


  • Categories
  • Written by Dr. Reena Kaloti

    Dr. Kaloti enjoys helping people, both at personally and professionally, and have fun while doing so. She always knew she wanted a job that allowed her to do that, and spent her childhood babysitting, lifeguarding, teaching swimming lessons, and volunteering in the geriatrics unit of her local hospital. She enjoys working with patients of all ages.

    Dr. Kaloti started studying dentistry in 2000 and graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with her DMD. After practicing dentistry for five years, she decided to take some time to focus on building her family. When she returned to work, Dr. Kaloti and Dr. Minhas decided to partner up and open up West 85th Dental. Their vision was to create a warm, inviting office and a pleasant and relaxing experience that would make their patients look forward to visiting.

    At West 85th Dental, we pride ourselves on providing comprehensive dental care to all our patients by providing thorough examinations, explaining our findings clearly, educating our patients about oral hygiene, and providing multiple treatment options that allow our patients to make educated decisions about their health and care.

    When Dr. Kaloti is not seeing patients, she spends her time doing charity runs, water sports, pilates, and spending time with her family.

    More Articles by Dr. Reena Kaloti

    Our Services

    Our Location


    • 2110, 8561 – 8A Ave, SW,
    • Calgary, AB T3H 0V5

    Contact Number


    10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
    8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
    8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
    7:00 AM - 3:00 PM
    8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
    9:00 AM - 2:00 PM

    *open 2 Saturdays a month

    See What People Are Saying About Us

    chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax