Updated: Apr 19
A front tooth cavity is when decay penetrates the enamel of one of your anterior teeth. That may sound a little concerning to you because those teeth are the most important contributors to your facial aesthetic. The idea of having something happening to them such as possibly losing their front tooth will make anyone panic.
Imagine having to walk around with a missing front tooth because you had a cavity on it which you left untreated. Ultimately the tooth had to be extracted and now you have to deal with the cosmetic consequences of having no tooth when you smile.
This article will go over everything that you need to know about cavities on front teeth. How you get them and what you should do about them. Hopefully this will inspire you to take care of not just the anterior teeth but the posterior ones as well!
Table of Contents:
Can you get a cavity on your front tooth?
Of course you can get a cavity on your front teeth because all teeth are susceptible to decay and the front ones are not an exception. As long as you have natural tooth structure with enamel, dentin, or root surface the bacteria will produce acid as a by product of eating sugar that will eat through it.
Once the acid forms a hole in your tooth, it is officially considered a cavity. Don't forget that the literal definition of a cavity is a hole and a dental cavity simply means a hole in your tooth. Thus once the acid melts through the tooth, you've satisfied the requirement for it to be called as such.
In fact, your front teeth are the first teeth to usually come into contact with sugar so its no surprise that they would be susceptible to decay. Think about it, when you drink a sugary beverage such as soda, which teeth come into contact with the sugar first? You guess it, its the anterior teeth that get bathed in sugar first.
Statistics and Prevalence
It is not uncommon for you to get a front tooth cavity since they're the first teeth to encounter any sugar beverages. According to this one study, approximately 16% of a sample size of 369 children between the ages of 3-4 had a cavity on their upper front teeth. That is certainly not rare by any means.
In fact, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) tooth decay in general is much more prevalent than you might think. Here are some general statistics:
1 in 4 adults aged 20-64 has at least one cavity.
90% of all adults have had at least one cavity.
Among adolescents, more than half have at least one cavity in their permanent teeth.
Cavity on the back of front tooth
Tooth decay does not discriminate against the front of your front tooth nor against the back of it. Both sides of your tooth are equally prone to cavities. Aside from the cavities on those two surface, you can also get decay in between adjacent front teeth, which we call flossing cavities.
For the in between decay, your dentist will most likely drill through the back of the front teeth in order to clean it out. The reason for that is to preserve the front or cheek side aesthetics by not having to drill into it. Since the front side is untouched, it would look like you never had any dental work done.
Due to that reason alone, it is actually more common to see cavity fillings on the back of the front teeth. Here is a picture of a cavity on the back of the front teeth.
What does a cavity look like on a front tooth?
Tooth decay on the front teeth don't look any different than decay on any of your other teeth. The only difference is just where the cavity is located and in this case it would be on one of your anterior incisors.
Aside from the location of the cavity, everything else about the cavity remains the same. Here are some characteristics of what it looks like:
Brown to black in color
May be cavitated with a hole
May also appear normal and can't be detected without an x-ray
Texture could be soft
Can be located on the front, back, or in between the teeth
Once again, the distinguishing characteristic that separates decay on your anterior teeth from the posterior teeth is merely the location. The bacteria in your mouth do not discriminate where to cause decay so all teeth are equally susceptible.
Related content: Here is an article showing you how other cavities can look like.
Does a front tooth cavity hurt?
The cavity usually does not hurt if it is small in size but it can potentially cause you a lot of pain if it is very large and close to the nerve. Whether or not it will hurt is all dependent on the size of the decay and the proximity of it to the tooth nerve.
The size of the cavity and what you may feel:
Small cavity - you may not feel anything at all or it could just be mildly sensitive to any type of sweets that you may eat.
Medium sized decay - it may be surprising but sometimes these don't cause you any pain at all. Like the smaller sized ones, it could be sensitive to sweets.
Large decay - if these are close to the pulp, it can cause extreme tooth pain. That type of pain is so severe that it can even prevent you from sleeping.
What causes cavities on teeth?
All cavities are caused by bacteria processing sugar, which creates an acid by product that will cause a cavitation in your tooth. This is a very gradual process that takes place over many months where the decay gets incrementally larger if left untreated.
Therefore, all early tooth decay begins as a very small cavity. Over time if left untreated and not given the attention due to it, it will grow. That means if you continue to eat sugar, don't stay on top of your oral hygiene, and skip your dental check up appointments the cavities will get bigger.
The cavity will progress through all of the stages of tooth decay. Unfortunately, the earlier stages may cause no pain so you may not even know that you have it. It is usually not until the later stages where it gets big enough to cause you pain that you do notice it.
Although by that time it is too late for conservative treatment because you may need major treatment such as root canals or even worse, an extraction. That is why it is very important to go in for your six month dental check ups and get your annual x-rays so that you can catch them while they're in the early stages. If you do, you can not only keep the treatment more conservative but also less expensive.
How to cover a cavity on front tooth
You can fix a cavity in your front tooth by drilling it out and then covering it back up with a composite filling. This type of filling material is tooth colored so you won't be able to tell that you even have one. As long as you keep it clean, it shouldn't stain nor discolor.
Here is what to expect for a cavity filling appointment:
Administered local anesthetic.
Drill out the decayed parts of the tooth.
Apply conditioner, primer, and bond.
Fill the cavity with a composite resin.
Light cure to harden the resin.
Adjust the bite and occlusion.
Polished the filling and you're all done!
That seems simple enough doesn't it? You do have to be numb for the appointment because you don't want to have anyone drilling into your tooth while you're not anesthetized. That can be very sensitive if not painful and we do want you to be comfortable for the entire duration of the procedure.
The whole appointment can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes total but we would recommend that you allocate at least an hour to the appointment in case someone runs late. It is also to provide some leeway in case complications arise during the procedure.
Preventing your front teeth from becoming decayed
The best way to avoid dealing with a decayed front tooth is by preventing it from ever happening in the first place. Since this type of cavity is no different from any other ones, the way to prevent it remains identical.
Here are some general guidelines to prevent or minimize the chances of cavities:
Brush for at least 2 minutes twice a day.
Definitely floss and try to use mouthwash before going to bed.
Avoid or minimize the sugar intake as much as possible so that bacteria don't have the ingredients necessary to cause decay.
Do go for your routine dental check ups so that you can catch any problems early so that you can keep the treatments conservative.
In addition to those four tips, you should also try to minimize the consumption of any type of foods that will drop the pH in your mouth into the acidic range. Cavities don't necessarily need to begin with sugar because all it takes to dissolve your enamel is when the mouth goes below the pH of 5.5 which is considered the critical pH.
That is essentially what happens when you drink very concentrated lemon waters or bite into them. The high acidity can erode your enamel, which does not look cosmetically pleasing.
Cavities can happen on your front teeth and leaving them untreated is not what you want to do because you don't want anything to happen to your front teeth. They are paramount to your facial aesthetics so it would be in your best interested to address these as promptly as possible.
There is nothing special about decayed front teeth because cavities are cavities. The only difference between these and the ones on your back teeth are the location. Tooth decay does not discriminate against which teeth they affect so all teeth are equally prone to them.
If you happen to get decay, our dentists can give you as many dental fillings as you possibly need. Well hopefully not too many.