A woman eating an ice cream

What Causes a Cavity on the Front Tooth?

When you think of cavities, you probably imagine back molars filled with decay from years of crunching on candy and chips. Not to mention that it's more difficult to brush or floss your back teeth.

While the front teeth are smoother and easier to access for cleaning, they're not immune to cavities. Any of you or your child's teeth – including front incisors seen when you smile – can develop decay without mindful oral hygiene. Because cavities in front teeth pose cosmetic and health issues, your family dentist takes special care to treat the decay.

What Causes a Front Tooth Cavity?

The same things that cause cavities in your back teeth can lead to decay in your front teeth:

  • Sugary foods and drinks, especially acidic carbonated beverages
  • Food that gets trapped between your teeth
  • Forgetting to brush your teeth
  • Skipping your flossing routine
  • Acid reflux
  • Lack of fluoride

Additionally, tooth decay in young kids, known as early childhood caries (ECC), is a global disease more common in children than any other condition, according to researchers as shared in an article on StatPearls. If not treated, kids' cavities can lead to further dental problems and even health issues.

According to Health Link BC, factors that contribute to ECC are:

  • Frequent eating of sticky or sugary foods. Constant use of a baby bottle or sippy cup filled with milk, juice or formula (especially at bedtime) which can contribute to baby-bottle tooth decay (BBTD).
  • Not brushing your child’s teeth daily.
  • Transferring bacteria from your mouth to your baby through saliva by sharing toothbrushes, utensils, and cleaning pacifiers by putting them in your mouth.

Did You Know?

While sugar-sweetened drinks are always a no-no for kids, they should only drink milk and juice at mealtimes. Water is the best bet for children to drink in bed and throughout the day.

How Can I Identify and Treat a Front Tooth Cavity?

Because you might not realize you have a cavity, the CDA recommends a dental exam every six months to catch small problems early. If you notice a cavity on a front tooth, it's best to see your dentist right away. You don't want the decay to worsen.

If you pay attention to tooth colour, you can see decay starting with white spots and leading to a light brown or grey tooth colour. At that point, seek dental care before a tooth turns dark brown or black. You or your child might also experience pain or sensitivity to cold, hot or sweets.

To treat permanent front teeth cavities, dentists will remove the decayed portion of the tooth and fill it with a strong, restorative material.

Your dentist might use tooth-coloured composite fillings made from plastic resins and finely ground glass-like elements for a natural look. This treatment typically takes only one appointment.

To correct cosmetic issues arising from a cavity on a front tooth, your dentist might recommend treating the cavity with one of these prosthetics:

  • A crown - a tooth-shaped, natural tooth-coloured cap covering the remaining tooth structure
  • A veneer - a thin piece of porcelain matching your natural tooth colour that's bonded to the front surface of the tooth

These cosmetic options might require two or more dental visits. Your dentist can help you determine the best treatment option for your individual situation.

How Can I Prevent a Front Tooth Cavity?

The great news is that you can significantly reduce you and your child's risk of tooth decay with some simple steps:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss (also known as interdental cleaning) once a day.
  • Eat a balanced diet, limiting foods and drinks with added sugars.
  • See your dentist twice a year for regular check-ups and cleanings.

By making an oral health care routine, you can maintain a healthy smile throughout your life. Avoid sugary and acidic foods and drinks, and clean and floss your teeth twice a day to maintain a healthy mouth.