how long does it take for a cavity to form

It can take months, even years for a cavity to develop.

A dental cavity is a permanent damage on your tooth that needs to be repaired with a filling by a dentist. Also known as caries or tooth decay, a cavity is caused by a combination of several factors. These include mouth bacteria, sipping sugary drinks, snacking frequently on sugary foods, and failure to clean your teeth well.

Cause of Cavities

Whenever you drink or eat something that contains starch or sugar, the bacteria in your mouth use them in producing acids. The acids will then begin to eat away the enamel or hard outer surface of your tooth. If this process continues unchecked, your teeth will lose more minerals.

Over time, the outer surface of your tooth is destroyed and weakened to form a cavity. Cavities also occur when food particles containing carbohydrates get trapped between your teeth and are not removed completely even with flossing and brushing. Cavities can be quite painful if left untreated.

The Process

It takes several stages for a cavity to form. The process starts with demineralization (loss of tooth mineral) to the acids eating the outer surface all the way through to form a cavity or hole in the enamel. The first phase involves the formation of plaque.

When the sugars you consume are not cleaned off properly from your teeth, mouth bacteria feed on them to produces acids. These, when combined with saliva and food particles in the mouth form a sticky film known as plaque that covers your teeth.

After the build-up of plaque, the acids will begin wearing away the enamel causing tiny holes on the surface of the tooth. These tiny openings represent the onset of cavities, which can grow until they reach the softer substance of your tooth, the dentin.

Preventing Cavities

A cavity doesn’t develop overnight. It can take months or even years, before the process of decay advances to a point where you require the attention of a dentist. If they are not treated, cavities get larger, ultimately affecting the deeper layers of the teeth. They can cause a severe toothache, pulp infection and possibly loss of the tooth.

Good oral habits like daily brushing and flossing plus regular dental visits offer you the best protection against tooth decay and cavities.


Brushing twice daily, flossing at least once per day and rinsing with a quality alcohol-free mouthwash as well as drinking plenty of water are all great preventative measures. Avoid too many starchy or sugary foods and drinks, of course, have your dentist check your oral health status twice a year for professional cleaning.

Author: Peter Mayhew

Peter is a dental hygienist in the city of Chicago, IL. In his free time he likes to write blogs and product reviews on anything dental health related.