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What is a gumline cavity and can it be filled?

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

Cavities are extremely common. As long as you have teeth, you need to worry about them! Also known as tooth decay or dental caries, cavities are permanently damaged areas on the teeth that lead to tiny holes when left untreated. They can form on any part of the tooth, like between the teeth or at gumline (where the tooth meets the gums).

What is a gumline cavity?

A gumline cavity is the formation of tooth decay at the gumline, where the tooth meets the gum.

By the end of this article, we will cover all there is to know about dealing with cavities at the gumline, including simple habits to prevent gumline cavities at home. We will also discuss how they form, the hallmark gumline cavity symptoms and how to treat them. For example, can you fill a cavity at the gumline?

Let’s find out!

Cavities don't just appear out of nowhere; they develop over time due to an accumulation of plaque and food residue. Without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can build up in the pits and grooves of the mouth and along the gum tissue. Plaque progresses into hardened calculus, which is more challenging to remove. As plaque, calculus, and bacteria continue to pile up along the gumline, the gums begin to pull away from the teeth, and gum recession exposes the roots to cavities.

Does gum disease cause cavities?

There is a correlation between gum disease and cavity formation below the gumline, as gum recession can expose the layer of dental tissue covering the roots. The roots tend to be more vulnerable to plaque buildup and decay, and cavities can easily form. Since our gums naturally recede with age, you are more likely to get a gumline cavity or two as you get older too, but thankfully not everyone will get cavities even with some gum recession.

Causes of gumline cavities

Because cavities develop gradually, you might not even realize you have one until it’s too late. No matter the cause, decay occurs due to a buildup of plaque and bacteria, and their acid byproduct which eats away at the tooth’s hard outer enamel. While it is possible to reinforce weakened enamel, it is vital to catch cavities and stop them in the early stages to prevent irreversible damage.

Without a protective outer casing, cavities can progress and affect the deeper layer of the teeth, getting into the dentin and pulp, which is also where your nerves and blood vessels are. Irritated by bacteria, the pulp becomes swollen and expands inside the tooth, compressing the nerves and causing severe pain and discomfort extending from the root to the bone.

Symptoms of a gumline cavity

Eventually, this gives rise to a bunch of oral health problems such as increased sensitivity, infections, toothache, and even tooth loss. So if you are experiencing sudden tooth pain that affects your daily life, you notice that your teeth are becoming increasingly sensitive to hot and cold, or they ache after you consume something sweet; these could signify a weakened enamel. Other signs include stains on the teeth or, worse, the appearance of abscesses or a hole in a tooth near the gumline.

Tooth decay at gumline treatment

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Depending on which part of the tooth your gumline cavity is located, you may require more extensive treatment. For instance, smooth surface cavities are much simpler to repair with composite fillings. Some root cavities may also be able to be restored this way too. Nevertheless, if the infection extends below the gums or reaches the tooth's center, minor gum surgery or a root canal treatment may be necessary.

How to prevent gumline cavities

Thankfully, all of this is avoidable by practicing proper preventative dental care. In other words, never skip brushing or cleaning between the teeth, folks! Although gumline cavity treatments are available, once your tooth is infected, it won’t be as strong and healthy as before. So stopping them from developing in the first place is vital. The first step towards prevention is really simple. All you have to do is make it a habit to clean the mouth, removing plaque and food particles regularly.

This can be achieved by… say it with me… brushing your teeth for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day! Cleaning between your teeth is also necessary to remove buildup in the spaces between the teeth, which can easily be missed, and where plaque can accumulate.

Simple lifestyle changes such as avoiding sugary foods and drinks will also help because, as we know, sugar interacts with bacteria to generate harmful, enamel-corroding acids. But, if you really can’t do without sugar, try chewing or snacking on xylitol-based candies.

Cavity detection is only possible by examining your teeth. Therefore, regular visits to your dentist or dental hygienist is another crucial prevention measure in ensuring that your teeth are clean and cavity-free.

So if you don’t want the pain, stress, and inconvenience of having a gumline cavity, it’s time to take your oral hygiene seriously. Daily plaque accumulation is the culprit, but this can be easily prevented by simply brushing, cleaning between the teeth, and going for frequent checkups.

However, even if it’s too late, a gumline cavity can be easily fixed by filling in the affected tooth. Severe decay may require serious surgery, but it’s necessary to put an end to the infection so it doesn’t go on to cause even more problems.

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