Cavities in Front Teeth (Pictures), Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Front teeth make us look good when we talk or smile. Also, they help us cut the food to prepare it for digestion and swallowing. Cavities in front teeth are permanent damage that occurs as a result of bacterial acid attacks and can lead to the formation of a dental abscess or even tooth loss. They can also decrease your self-esteem and make you embarrassed when you smile, talk, or eat.

In the early stage, dental caries appears as white spots or lines on the tooth surfaces. In this stage, the tooth enamel is still intact, and dental caries can be reversed by fluoride. As caries develops, cavities begin to form. Over time, they extend to a deeper layer (dentin) and may reach the inner tooth pulp. Cavities in front teeth appear as brown or black holes.

What are Cavities?

Cavities are permanent damage to the tooth that occurs as a result of a bacterial acid attack. They look like holes or tiny openings in the tooth. Cavities are common in children and teenagers. However, anyone can get cavities (infants, children, teenagers, and adults).

Bacteria in the mouth decompose food and produce acids. These acids attack the enamel (the outer layer of the tooth), leading to the development of small holes in the tooth known as cavities. If these cavities are not treated, they gradually become bigger, affecting the enamel and dentin. Also, cavities can reach the pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels, causing pain and formation of dental abscess.

Cavities in Front Teeth
What do cavities in front teeth look like

Risk Factors

Several factors increase the risk of cavities in front teeth:

  • Improper oral hygiene: plaque is a sticky substance that adheres to teeth surfaces. It contains bacteria and food debris. The bacteria in plaque decompose foods and produce acids that attack the tooth enamel. So, you should remove the dental plaque regularly (twice daily) by proper brushing and flossing. The accumulation of plaque can lead to dental caries.
  • Dry Mouth: saliva plays an important role in the prevention of dental caries. It washes away food and plaque from tooth surfaces. Also, saliva neutralizes bacterial acid and helps reverse the early stage of dental caries (Remineralization). Dry mouth (the lack of saliva) increases the risk of dental caries and cavities. Causes of dey mouth include mouth breathing, smoking, certain medical conditions, and some medications.
  • Sugary foods and drinks: frequent and prolonged exposure to sugary foods and drinks can cause dental caries and cavities. Also, the food that clings to your teeth for a long time can cause cavities in front teeth such as cookies and dried fruits.
  • Eating Disorders: in bulimia, the stomach acids in vomit wears away the tooth enamel. So, teeth become more susceptible to dental caries.
  • Broken tooth fillings and braces: they cause the accumulation of food debris and plaque more rapidly.
  • Not getting enough fluoride: fluoride prevents dental caries and can reverse the early stage of dental caries (remineralization).

Cavities develop more often in the back teeth. However, they can occur in the front teeth, especially if you breathe through your mouth instead of your nose or have a dry mouth condition. 

Symptoms of Cavities in Front Teeth

The signs and symptoms depend on the extent of cavities. In the early stage, you may not feel pain or sensitivity at all. As cavities in front teeth advance, the holes gradually become bigger and extend to a deeper layer (dentin). Also, they may reach the tooth pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. The signs and symptoms of cavities in front teeth include:

  • White, brown, or black spots on the teeth before the formation of cavities.
  • Visible holes or openings in the front teeth.
  • Tooth sensitivity to sweets, hot, or cold.
  • Sharp, spontaneous pain without any apparent cause.
  • Pain with biting.
  • Pain associated with sweet, hot, or cold foods and drinks.
  • Pus discharge and bad taste.
  • Facial swelling.
  • Fever.
Progress of Cavities in Front Teeth
As cavities in front teeth progress, the holes gradually become bigger and extend to a deeper layer.

Diagnosis

Your dentist can early detect cavities in front teeth during a regular check-up. In the early stage, dental caries appears as white spots or white lines on the front teeth. These white spots occur due to the demineralization of the tooth enamel. The demineralization is the loss of tooth minerals such as calcium due to bacterial acid attacks. In this stage, dental caries can be reversed by fluoride (remineralization). If these white spots are left untreated, dental caries will progress and lead to the formation of cavities in front teeth (can’t be reversed). These front teeth cavities are permanent damage and look like brown or black holes.

How Dentists Diagnose Cavities in Front Teeth?

Your dentist can diagnose cavities in front teeth by:

  • Oral examination: the dentist will use a mirror and probe to examine the oral cavity. Sometimes, caries occurs in the back of the front teeth and are not visible to the patient. Your dentist can detect these cavities using a probe and mirror.
  • X-ray: the dentist will take an x-ray to detect cavities in front teeth and check the extent of the damage. If cavities reached the tooth pulp, they may cause inflammation of the pulp, pain, and formation of dental abscess.
  • Percussion test: the dentist will use the end of the mirror-handle to tap on the front teeth. Inflamed or infected teeth are sensitive to pressure or tapping.
Cavities in Front Teeth on x-ray
What do cavities in front teeth look like on x-ray

Front Teeth Cavities in Children

Cavities in front teeth are common in children. This occurs due to the accumulation of foods containing carbohydrates on children’s front teeth. For example, candy, cake, soda, milf, raisins, and fruit juice. Bacteria in the mouth decompose these carbohydrates and produce acids, which destroy the tooth enamel and cause the formation of cavities. Cavities in front teeth are permanent damage that appears as brown or black holes. The following factors increase the risk of cavities in front teeth:

  • Poor oral hygiene.
  • Diet high in sugar and starch.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Bedtime infant feeding.

Complications

In the early stage, dental caries appears as white, brown, or black spots on the tooth. If these spots are left untreated, they will progress and form cavities. Cavities look like holes or tiny openings. The complications of cavities in front teeth include:

  • Continuous pain and swelling.
  • Tooth discoloration and aesthetic problem.
  • A dental abscess, which if left untreated, will lead to life-threatening complications such as sepsis.
  • Tooth fracture.
  • Tooth mobility and tooth loss.

Treatment of Cavities in Front Teeth

The treatment of cavities in front teeth depends on their size, extent, and location.

  • Fluoride: Your dentist may use a fluoride gel or varnish to reverse the early stage of dental caries. This process is known as remineralization. However, when the damage occurs, it can’t be reversed.
  • Tooth-colored fillings: They are aesthetic fillings, which the dentist may use to restore the shape and function of the front teeth. First, the dentist will remove caries under local anesthesia. Then, they will place and shape the tooth-colored fillings to restore the natural look of teeth. Tooth-colored fillings can be used in back and front teeth. Amalgam fillings can’t be used for the treatment of cavities in front teeth because they are unaesthetic (silver-colored).
  • Root canal treatment: if bacteria reached the tooth pulp, the dentist will remove the infected and/or inflamed pulp and fill the root canal. Then, they will restore the tooth shape and function with a tooth-colored filling or dental crown.
  • Pulpotomy and Pulpectomy: it is the partial or complete removal of the primary teeth pulp.
  • Dental crowns: if the front teeth are damaged and can’t be restored by tooth-colored fillings, your dentist may recommend dental crowns.
  • Tooth extraction: if the tooth is severely damaged, your dentist will recommend a tooth extraction. Then, you may need implants and/or a dental bridge to restore the shape and function of your teeth.
Composite (tooth-colored) Fillings for the Treatment of Cavities in Front Teeth
A composite (tooth-colored) filling can be used for the treatment of cavities in front teeth

Prevention of Cavities in Front Teeth

You can prevent dental caries/cavities by:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene: brush your teeth at least twice per day, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss your teeth: use dental floss at least once per day to remove dental plaque and food debris between your teeth.
  • Limit sugary foods and drinks such as sweets, candy, cake, cookies, fruit juice, and soda.
  • Limit snacking between meals.
  • Breathe from your nose instead of your mouth. If you can’t breathe from your nose, visit an ENT doctor.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Visit your dentist at least twice a year for regular teeth cleaning and check-up.

Summary

  • Front teeth make us look good when we talk or smile.
  • Cavities in front teeth appear as brown or black holes.
  • The holes gradually become bigger over time.
  • They can decrease your self-esteem and make you embarrassed when you smile, talk, or eat.
  • The risk of cavities increases with poor oral hygiene, consumption of sugary foods, and dry mouth condition.
  • Cavities can cause pain and swelling.
  • The dentist will take an x-ray to detect the location and extent of the damage.
  • Cavities are common in children.
  • Tooth-colored fillings and/or dental crowns are a good choice to restore the shape and function of the front teeth.
  • If the tooth is severely damaged, your dentist will recommend a tooth extraction.

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