3 Types of Tooth Decay & How to Treat Them

Chances are, whether as a kid or as an adult, you’ve had a cavity or two. But while they may seem like an everyday occurrence, tooth decay is a very real issue. If left untreated, it can turn into a serious problem and even lead to needing to remove the tooth. But what exactly is tooth decay? Understanding what it is might make it a little easier to prevent. Or at least let you know what to look for in your own teeth.

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is damage to the tooth’s surface or its enamel. It occurs when the bacteria in your mouth make acids that attack the enamel. When left untreated, tooth decay can lead to cavities or holes in the teeth. From there, it can cause pain, lead to infection, and eventually cause tooth loss.

3 Types of Tooth Decay

There are three types of tooth decay or cavities. Which one you have depends on how deep the damage is. The main types of tooth decay include:

Smooth Surface Tooth Decay

This is a slow-growing cavity that dissolves tooth enamel and is the least common type. They typically form on the smooth sides of the teeth.

Pit and Fissure Decay

This type of cavity forms on the top of your teeth where you chew. It can also affect the front side of the back teeth. This form tends to start during the teenage years and progresses as you get older.

Root Decay

this type of decay is just what it sounds like. When the gums start to recede and expose the root, plaque and acid attack it. This occurs primarily in older adults who have receding gums but it should be looked for in everyone.

Treatments for Tooth Decay

If you suffer from tooth decay, visiting a dentist is necessary. Your dentist will help you choose the most effective option for your type of tooth decay. There are several options including:

Fluoride treatments

If your cavity just started, a fluoride treatment can restore your tooth’s enamel and in certain circumstances, even reverse the cavity. Fluoride treatments can come as a liquid, gel, foam, or varnish and our brushed on the teeth or put in a tray that fits over the teeth. They are completely painless.


Fillings are what most people think of when they think of treatment for cavities. A filling fills the cavity hole and stops the decay. Fillings are made of a number of materials including resin and porcelain.


If you have a lot of decay, a crown might be the best option. They are custom-fit to cover the tooth and replace its natural crown. Your dentist takes away the decayed area and fits the crown on top of the remaining tooth. Crowns can be made of gold, porcelain, resin, or a few other materials.

Root canals

If the decay reached the pulp of the tooth (the inner material, a root canal may be necessary. The decayed pulp is removed, medication may be used to clear the infection, and then the pulp is replaced with a filling.

Tooth extractions: When a tooth is too damaged and decayed to fix, it may need to be removed. This may leave a gap. Your dentist will likely recommend a bridge or dental implant.

Schedule A Consultation

Any tooth decay requires professional treatment. If you suspect a dental problem, contact us today at Fennell Yoxthimer and Associates, DDS, Inc. We are more than happy to help you have the best smile possible You can schedule a consultation by calling us at our Norwood, OH office or by using our online form.

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