What is a Cavity?

This post was written by our Community Relations Coordinator in Kenosha, Elizabeth Muniz. 

Going to the dentist and being diagnosed with a cavity can raise a lot of questions. What is a cavity? How can they be prevented? Familia Dental is here to answer these questions, and make recommendations on how to avoid getting cavities in the future. 

A cavity is another word for tooth decay or dental caries. For a cavity to form,  carbohydrates and bacteria together create acids on the teeth. 

Dental caries are the single most common chronic disease in children.

Five times more children in the U.S have untreated dental disease than have childhood asthma.

Every year over 50 million school hours are missed due to untreated dental issues. Dental decay affects almost everybody. More than 164 million hours of work each year are lost due to dental decay or dental related issues. Believe it or not, tooth decay is considered an infectious disease because the bacteria that cause cavities can be passed from person to person.

There are many ways to prevent cavity formation. Diet is extremely important in the fight against decay. Try to limit the amounts of candy, starchy foods, and beverages other than water in your diet.

  • Embrace fluoride: drink your tap water and get the fluoride treatment at the dentist. Fluoride strengthens teeth, making the surface more resistant to acid and decay.
    • Children under the age of 18 can get fluoride applied directly to their teeth by the Dentist or Dental Assistant. Fluoride is added to most toothpastes and some mouth rinses. 
  • Remove plaque from all tooth surfaces, with daily brushing and flossing.
  • The dentist can prescribe an antibacterial mouth rinse to help limit the amount of decay forming bacteria in the mouth.
  • Dental sealants are an excellent preventative measure used on children and young adults to help prevent tooth decay.
    • Sealants fill in the grooves on top of teeth, where bacteria and food can usually find easy hiding places to attack the tooth and form a cavity.
  • Increasing the flow or production of saliva can also help prevent the formation of a cavity. Saliva helps to neutralize the acid that can lead to the formation of a cavity. Chewing gum with xylitol is one way to increase saliva production. 


The easiest way to prevent cavities is through a healthy diet and good dental hygiene. Brush and floss for 2 minutes 2x per day.  Children and adults should visit the dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and exam.

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Modern Dental Assisting by Doni L Bird, CDA, RDA, RDH, MA and Debbie S Robinson, CDA, MS