Do cavities develop overnight?

This blog post will address the topic, “do cavities develop overnight” and cover topics like what is a dental cavity and how does it develop, if you can stop a cavity from progressing, 7 ways to tell if you have a cavity or not, signs & symptoms that tell you that you have a cavity, does cavities always indicate bad oral hygiene, 11 reasons why you may have cavities even after good oral hygiene and how you can prevent cavities from developing.

Do cavities develop overnight?

No, cavities do not develop overnight. A cavity may take weeks, or months or even a year or more to develop depending upon the oral hygiene, dietary habits and immunity of an individual.

The cavities grow as fast as six months or may take longer ranging from four to five years, depending on the condition of your oral cavity.

What Is A Dental Cavity And How Does It Develop?

Dental Cavity or tooth cavity, is a hole that develops on the surface of the tooth due to loss of mineral content from the enamel, resulting from the repeated acid attack by the plaque bacteria.

Consumption of sugary and starch rich foods expose the tooth to acids frequently, resulting in mineral loss from the enamel.

Infrequent tooth brushing habits cause poor oral hygiene, resulting in plaque accumulation.

Plaque is a sticky film containing bacteria that coats the protective enamel of your teeth. These bacteria produce acids by breaking down the food debris and the acids penetrate the enamel leading to formation of white spots on the teeth.

The cavity formation takes place in 5 stages:


  • Appearance of the white spots on the surface of the tooth as the mineral loss begins from enamel due to bacterial acid attack.
  • This stage can be reversed with preventive actions and maintaining good oral hygiene.


  • If the white spots are ignored and no preventive actions are initiated, the repeated acid attacks wear down the mineral and enamel is decayed
  • Visible hole is seen and now the cavity becomes irreversible.


  • The decay moves down further and attacks the inner soft dentin
  • This is called as Advanced Cavity Stage
  • Slight pain and sensitivity starts


  • In this stage, the decay finally reaches the pulp and irritates the nerves
  • Pain, sometimes excruciating, Sensitivity and Discomfort is seen in this stage.
  • Root Canal is the only treatment option other than extraction.


  • After pulp involvement, if treatment is not initiated, the infection spreads to the surrounding structures of the tooth and inflammation is caused
  • Extreme pain and even tooth loss may result

Can you stop a cavity from progressing?

Yes, you can stop a cavity from progressing by maintaining good oral hygiene. Brushing teeth twice a day, flossing daily and occasional mouthwash prevents a cavity from progressing and may even cause it to reverse in its earliest stages.

7 Ways To Tell If You Have A Cavity Or Not

Clearly Visible Hole In Your Tooth

Cavity is a hole that can be seen or felt with the help of your tongue. Hole on your tooth or teeth is an indication that you might have a cavity formed.

Tooth Pain 

Pain in the tooth is an indication of a cavity that has reached pulp. When cavity is ignored in its earliest stage, it deepens to enter dentin and finally enter pulp causing infection, resulting in pain.

If pain is felt in the tooth, it may be a cavity and you must consult your dentist.

Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is an indication of cavity reaching dentin. 

When the cavity in its earliest stage is not repaired or filled or healed naturally through good oral hygiene and calcium rich foods, it deepens and reaches dentin.

On reaching dentin, the dentinal tubules are exposed and sensitivity develops on eating or drinking something hot or cold or sugary.

Tooth Darkening

If you see your tooth getting darker in color, it may be due to tooth decay or cavity.

When cavity exposes pulp tissue, bacterial invasion occurs and pulp gets infected. 

Infection in the pulp is manifested as excruciating pain, sensitivity and darkening of the tooth.

At this stage, consult your dentist or an endodontist to get a root canal done.

If the tooth infection has destroyed the entire tooth, then extraction may be the only option.

Tooth Abscess And Pus 

Sometimes you may not notice a hole or you may not initially experience pain or sensitivity or you may experience an occasional pain and sensitivity that might be ignored by you.

In any of the above case, you miss out on noticing a cavity, resulting in cavity deepening and finally causing tooth abscess and pus accumulation around the infected tooth.

Bad Breath

Persistent bad breath may be an indication of poor oral hygiene and cavity formation. 

Cavity that deepens and results in tooth infection, causes halitosis which does not go away even after mouthwash or brushing.

If you have persistent bad breath, you must consult your dentist for an oral examination.

Tooth Fracture

If you notice your tooth fractured suddenly or after eating any hard food, then it must have developed a cavity. 

Cavity weakens your tooth and it might not withstand the biting force and fracture.

Signs & Symptoms That Tell You That You Have A Cavity

If you have a cavity, you might notice some of these signs and symptoms:

  • Holes in your teeth.
  • Sudden pain and sensitivity to drinking or eating something cold or hot.
  • Sensitivity on eating sweets or acidic drinks.
  • Pain on biting.
  • Fracturing of teeth upon normal biting.
  • Blackening or brown stains on teeth

Cavities: Does It Always Indicate Bad Oral Hygiene?

No, cavities may not always mean bad hygiene. Cavity may even form in those who brush and floss daily and maintain good oral hygiene. 

Cavity may not always mean bad or poor oral hygiene and may be a result of incorrect brushing or flossing, or incorrect timing of brushing like just after acidic foods or drinks, or may also occur due to continuous use of highly abrasive toothpaste.

11 Reasons Why You May Have Cavities Even After Good Oral Hygiene

Choice Of Toothbrush

You might be brushing twice daily but with the wrong toothbrush. Selection of an appropriate toothbrush plays a very crucial role in removal of plaque and food debris.

Toothbrushes with more rounded bristles are soft to your teeth and are considered to be an ideal toothbrush to use.

Using a hard-bristled toothbrush may abrade the enamel and lead to dental abrasion, recession of gums and increased risk of developing cavities due to thinning of enamel.

A 2014 study concluded that electric toothbrushes may be more effective in reducing plaque and gingivitis than manual brushes in the short and long term. 

As effective plaque removal is crucial in achieving caries free teeth, an electric toothbrush with rotating heads must be your choice of toothbrush.

Correct Technique Of Brushing Teeth

Sometimes you brush your teeth daily twice and still get cavities. The reason behind this may be hidden in the toothbrushing technique you follow.

While daily brushing, we pay little attention to the technique involved in toothbrushing and therefore end up getting cavities.

Use gentle, short strokes to brush your front teeth and thoroughly clean your mouth without abrading the enamel.

Brush the outside surfaces as well as the back molars and upper areas of your chewing surfaces. Brush the inside surfaces of both top and bottom front teeth by flipping your toothbrush upside down.

Brush your tongue to get rid of any bacteria or plaque.

Toothpaste You Use Matters!

You might be following all oral hygiene routines and yet end up with a cavity. Unfortunately, your toothpaste might be the culprit.

High abrasive toothpastes abrade your enamel layer, thinning the enamel and increasing the chances of cavity formation multifold. 

To maximise the benefits of toothbrushing, you must choose a toothpaste which has a RDA value of 250 or less.

You should look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance while choosing your toothpaste or any teeth whitening products.

Fluoride toothpaste can greatly help achieve oral and dental health by strengthening the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to tooth decay. 

Fluoride reduces the amount of acid produced by the bacteria on your mouth. 

Proper Diet: Essential For Preventing Dental Cavities

Diet plays a crucial role in preventing cavity formation. Proper diet with less sugar and more calcium, may significantly decrease the risk of developing cavities.

However, a diet with frequent intake of sugar, starchy foods and acidic foods and drinks may increase the risk of dental cavities as they result in increased bacterial attack and thinning of enamel from demineralisation.

A research study concluded that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages on a regular basis increases the chances of having dental caries.

Another study reported that all sugars can be fermented by the oral bacteria and are therefore a potential cause of cavities and tooth decay.

Foods rich in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin D increases the tooth strength and their resistance against cavity forming bacteria.

A clinical trial reported vitamin D to be a prominent agent for caries prevention.

Study published in the journal of dental research, concluded that vitamin D is essential for lowering the risk of developing caries in children.

Hence, if you maintain good oral hygiene and still develop cavities, you need to check your diet and eating habits.

Structure Of Your Teeth (Teeth Morphology)

The structure of the teeth are different for different people. Some may have too many pits and fissures and grooves on the tooth surface while some may have gaps in between the teeth.

Morphology of teeth plays a decisive role in cavity formation. The food particles get stuck in these pits, fissures, grooves and gaps between the teeth, not possible to remove from brushing, resulting in plaque buildup, acid attacks on enamel by plaque bacteria and finally cavities formation.

Wisdom tooth or partially erupted tooth creates a favorable environment for the bacteria to get trapped between the crown and periodontal soft tissues causing inflammation and infection.

Choice Of Mouthwash

Therapeutic Mouthwashes contain ADA listed active ingredients such as fluoride, peroxide, essential oils, cetylpyridinium chloride, and chlorhexidine, preventing cavities from forming and naturally healing and reversing the formed cavity in its earliest stage.

Therapeutic mouthwashes, as the name suggests have therapeutic action and control dental conditions like gingivitis, tooth decay and periodontal diseases. They also help remove halitosis.

According to a research published in the journal of clinical medicine research, mouthwash containing chlorhexidine gluconate or cetylpyridinium chloride showed antimicrobial activity against most bacteria in the plaque biofilm.

Another study concluded that the chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride containing antiseptic mouthwashes had higher in-vitro antibacterial activity against streptococcus mutans, a bacteria found in the plaque biofilm.

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Bruxism or teeth grinding over a long period of time wears down the enamel and increases the risk of dental cavity, further leading to pulp infection.

Medical Conditions like Sjogren Syndrome

Sjogren syndrome, a medical condition that causes dry mouth due to decreased salivary production, is often responsible for tooth infection.

In dry mouth, the saliva in the oral cavity is significantly decreased resulting in non-flushing of the plaque and other food debris.

The plaque accumulation increases resulting in increased bacterial growth leading to tooth infection or abscess.

Immunosuppressive Conditions

Conditions like HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy and other immunosuppressive conditions lead to increased risk of developing tooth cavity and tooth infection as the defence mechanism of the body is significantly compromised.

Genetic Causes such as Amelogenesis Imperfecta

Amelogenesis Imperfecta is a rare genetic disorder affecting the enamel formation, predisposing the enamel to wear down and finally leading to increased risk of cavity and tooth infection.

Saliva Viscosity Matters!

Thickness of saliva or saliva viscosity matters a lot when it comes to cavities formation. 

You might be following all the daily good oral hygiene routine but still get cavities or tooth decay. Your saliva may have a role in it.

Viscous and thick saliva may not act as a natural cleaner of the oral cavity and thus increase the risk of cavities formation even after maintaining good oral hygiene.

The salivary thickness may be genetically influenced, or may be reduced due to some medical or oral conditions, or may be due to excessive smoking and alcohol consumption.

How Can I Prevent Cavities?

  • Daily brushing twice following the correct technique.
  • Brushing with a mild abrasive toothpaste containing fluoride.
  • Daily flossing
  • Occasional use of therapeutic mouthwash.
  • Oil pulling has shown potential to prevent cavities.
  • Keeping yourself hydrated.
  • Frequent munching on snacks must be avoided and if done, must be followed by brushing teeth with just water.
  • Diet rich in vegetables and foods with sufficient calcium and vitamin D.


This blog post addressed the topic, “do cavities develop overnight”. We understood what a dental cavity is and how it develops, if you can stop a cavity from progressing, 7 ways to tell if you have a cavity or not, signs & symptoms that tell you that you have a cavity and whether cavities always indicate bad oral hygiene. 

The article outlined reasons why you get cavities even after good oral hygiene and how cavities can be prevented.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs): Do Cavities Develop Overnight

Why Do I Suddenly Have So Many Cavities?

You suddenly develop so many cavities because of the sudden change in your oral hygiene habits brought in by stress of a new routine or a new job.

Stress commonly results in dry mouth, which further results in quick plaque and tartar buildup, finally resulting in cavities at a faster rate.

Do Cavities Only Get Worse?

Yes, cavities may get worse if left ignored and untreated. Cavity can be reversed naturally in its earliest stage but once it reaches dentin, there can’t be any reversal and filling is the only treatment. 

However, if the cavity is left untreated and no filling is done, it may worsen and lead to tooth infection which may further spread to the adjoining jaw bone causing osteomyelitis.

Ascending tooth infections may enter the brain through sinuses or blood and lead to abscess formation in the brain.

Do healthy people get cavities?

Yes, healthy people do get cavities. Sometimes, you might experience that you maintain good oral hygiene and you are healthy but still get cavities. 

Getting cavities depend on a person’s immunity and overall tooth morphology as well as diet.

How do you heal a cavity in 2 days?

The only way to heal a cavity in 2 days is to get a filling done at your dentist’s office. It takes almost an hour or less to fill a single cavity. 

In case of multiple cavities, the dentist might give you multiple appointments.

Can I wait 6 months to fill a cavity?

Waiting for 6 months to fill your cavity can damage your tooth and may aggravate the pain, sensitivity and discomfort by infecting the pulp.

Hence, it is advised to fill a cavity as soon as it develops or starts showing certain symptoms like sensitivity and pain on eating and drinking something cold or hot.

The cavities grow as fast as six months or may take longer ranging from four to five years, depending on the condition of your oral cavity.

Other FAQs about Teeth cavities that you may be interested in.

Do apples cause cavities?

Do cavities get worse if untreated?

Do cavities go away after filling?


The Tooth Decay Process: How to Reverse It and Avoid a Cavity. (2018)

7 Proven Ways How to Tell If You Have a Cavity

Cavities – How to Tell if You Have One – WebMD

Cavities/tooth decay – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

Can You Reverse a Cavity? (2020)

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