A cavity is a hole in the tooth that develops as a result of tooth decay, which breaks down tooth enamel and destroys tooth structure. When sugars and starches are left on the teeth, plaque forms and combines with bacteria, producing acids that eat away at tooth enamel and cause decay.
There are a number of measures a person can take to avoid the decay that leads to cavities. The most important factor to the prevention of cavities is maintaining a strong oral hygiene routine. Brushing at least twice a day, daily flossing, and twice yearly professional dental cleanings are crucial to the removal of plaque, which can lead to cavities if left unaddressed. A healthy diet is also important to the prevention of dental cavities: foods that are high in sugar and carbonated beverages should be limited.
A dental filling is often used to fill the hole left in a tooth by dental decay or a cavity. However, if the cavity has gone untreated long enough that it has reached the tooth root, a root canal procedure will most likely be needed to save the tooth. After a root canal, a dental crown or veneer will be placed on the tooth to seal the surface and to lend structural support.
While adults and children are all at risk of developing cavities, they are more common in children, who tend to have less healthy eating habits and are less dedicated to a healthy oral hygiene routine. In fact, tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease. To help protect children's teeth, they should receive fluoride treatments at their twice-yearly dental appointments and have sealants placed on more cavity-prone back teeth.