Dental cavities

Alternative Names

Caries; Tooth decay; Cavities – tooth

Definition of Dental cavities

Cavities are holes, or structural damage, in the teeth.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Tooth decay is one of the most common of all disorders, second only to the . It usually occurs in children and young adults but can affect any person. It is a common cause of tooth loss in younger people.


There may be no symptoms. If symptoms occur, they may include:

Signs and tests

Most cavities are discovered in the early stages during routine checkups. The surface of the tooth may be soft when probed with a sharp instrument. Pain may not be present until the advanced stages of tooth decay. may show some cavities before they are visible to the eye.


Treatment can help prevent tooth damage from leading to cavities.

Expectations (prognosis)

Treatment often saves the tooth. Early treatment is less painful and less expensive than treatment of extensive decay.


Jack D Rosenberg, DDS, Advanced Dental Care, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, M.D., MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 2/22/2010

Tooth anatomy

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

Article written by

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability.