Cavity at Gum Line: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

May 15, 2023 | Dental Health

Cavity at Gum Line: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

While the most common place for cavities to develop is on the biting surface of your back molars, cavities can really form on any surface of the tooth where bacteria is allowed to build up. When it comes to cavities, there are three main types: biting surface, smooth surface, and root cavities. While much less common, smooth surface and root cavities make up what are considered gum line cavities, as they generally appear around the gum line or below. Unfortunately, these cavities can be dangerous if left untreated and can often lead to tooth loss.

Here we will examine what gum line cavities are, what causes them, how to prevent them from developing, and potential treatment options.

What is a gum line cavity?

Gum line cavities include root surface and smooth surface cavities. These cavities, like other cavities, occur when plaque and bacteria build up on the surface of the tooth or exposed root. This substance works to eat away at the enamel of the tooth, creating a hole or cavity. The gum tissue can also recede over time, further exposing the roots of the teeth and increasing the risk of cavities. Gum line cavities can be challenging to detect and treat since they often do not cause pain or sensitivity until they have progressed significantly.

Causes of gum line cavities

While gumline cavities are not as common as cavities on the biting surface of these teeth, some of the same contributing factors that cause these cavities also cause gumline cavities. Unfortunately, the most common cause is universal, no matter what kind of cavity you develop.

Poor oral hygiene

Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of gum line cavities. A quality oral hygiene routine is necessary to remove plaque buildup on the surface of the teeth as well as reduce your risk of gum disease. Neglecting your oral hygiene routine can increase your risk of gum line cavities, severe gum disease, and tooth loss.

A quality oral hygiene routine should include brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing once a day, as well as seeing your dentist twice a year for a thorough dental cleaning and exam.

To learn more about teeth cleanings, CLICK HERE.

Receding gums

When your gums recede, they expose more of the tooth root and increase your risk of serious gum line cavities. While receding gums becomes more common as you age, there are other factors that can increase your risk. These include:


    • Gum disease: Gum disease is one of the leading causes of receding gums. This buildup of bacteria below the gum line can damage the gums and the bone that supports the teeth.
    • Brushing too hard: Brushing your teeth too hard or using a toothbrush with hard bristles can cause the gum tissue to recede.
    • Gum trauma: Trauma to the gums, such as from a sports injury or accident, can cause the gum tissue to recede.
    • Genetics: Some people are more prone to gum disease and receding gums due to genetic factors.
    • Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can make the gums more sensitive and more susceptible to gum disease.
    • Smoking: Smoking can cause a wide range of dental problems, including receding gums.
    • Misaligned teeth: Misaligned teeth can put excessive pressure on the gums, leading to gum recession.

It’s important to note that receding gums can also be caused by a combination of these factors, further increasing your risk of gumline cavities.

Bruxism (Tooth grinding)

Bruxism, or tooth grinding, is a common condition that affects many people. While you would more than likely associate bruxism with cavities on the biting surface of your teeth, the fact is bruxism is one of the leading causes of gum recession. This increased risk of gum recession can also increase the risk of root exposure and cavity development around the gum line and especially in the tooth root.

Acidic foods and beverages

Acidic foods and beverages can erode tooth enamel, which is the protective outer layer of the teeth. When enamel wears away, the underlying dentin layer becomes exposed, which is softer and more susceptible to decay. When acidic substances come into contact with the gums, they can also cause irritation and inflammation, leading to gum recession. Additionally, acid can also reduce saliva production, which can impair the mouth’s ability to neutralize harmful bacteria and protect teeth from decay.

Symptoms of gum line cavities

Gum line cavities may not show any symptoms in their early stages. As the cavity progresses, the following symptoms may occur:


    • Tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks
    • Toothache, especially when biting or chewing
    • Visible holes or pits in the affected tooth near the gum line
    • Dark spots or stains on the tooth surface
    • Swollen or red gums around the affected tooth
    • Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.
Patient Getting Dental Exam

Diagnosis and professional assessment

The diagnosis of gum line cavities is usually made by a dentist during a routine dental examination. The dentist will visually inspect the teeth and may use dental instruments to check for areas of decay. X-rays may also be taken to confirm the presence and extent of cavities. If a cavity is detected, the dentist will determine the best course of treatment based on the severity of the decay.

To learn more about dental exams, CLICK HERE.

Treatment options for gum line cavities

The treatment options for gum line cavities depend on the severity of the decay. In the early stages, when the cavity is small and hasn’t progressed too deep into the tooth, the dentist may be able to simply clean the area and apply fluoride to help the tooth remineralize. However, if the cavity has progressed to the point where it has caused a significant amount of damage to the tooth structure, the dentist may need to place a filling or crown to restore the tooth’s shape and function. In more severe cases where the decay has spread to the tooth root or surrounding tissues, root canal therapy or even tooth extraction may be necessary. In addition to these treatments, the dentist may also recommend changes in oral hygiene habits or dietary modifications to prevent the cavity from worsening or recurring.

Preventing cavities at the gumline

Preventing gum line cavities involves maintaining good oral hygiene and following a healthy diet. Here are some tips to help prevent gumline cavities:


    • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
    • Floss daily to remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth and along the gum line.
    • Use mouthwash to kill bacteria and freshen your breath.
    • Limit your intake of sugary and acidic foods and beverages or rinse your mouth with water after consuming them.
    • Drink plenty of water to help wash away food particles and bacteria.
    • Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings and ask your dentist about fluoride treatments or dental sealants to protect your teeth.
    • If you grind your teeth, talk to your dentist about wearing a mouthguard at night to protect your teeth from damage.

To learn more about preventative dentistry, CLICK HERE.

Understanding gum line cavities

Understanding how gum line cavities develop and the actions you can take to reduce your risk of bacterial buildup can help promote a healthy smile and keep your teeth cavity-free. By following a quality oral hygiene routine at home and visiting your dentist on a regular basis for cleanings and exams can help ensure that your teeth stay healthy. If you experience signs of a potential gum line cavity, it is important to catch it early and address it with the necessary treatment in order to help save your tooth.

Helping you keep your smile healthy

If you are experiencing tooth pain or see signs of a potential gum line cavity, the team of dental experts at New Leaf Rohnert Park is here to help. A comprehensive dental exam can identify gum line cavities, and our team will work with you to create a custom treatment plan that addresses tooth decay and helps restore a healthy, beautiful smile. Schedule your appointment today.

Eddie Kuo, DDS

Eddie Kuo, DDS

Owner @ New Leaf Rohnert Park

Professional Degrees

University of California at Davis – BS in Biological Sciences with emphasis in Neurology, Physiology, Behaviors

University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, Doctorate of Dental Surgery

State University of New York at Buffalo – General Practice Residency at Erie County Medical Center

Front Office Staff On Phone Taking Appointment

Come Join Our Dental Family

Do you have a toothache that just won’t go away? Does seeing a dentist give you anxiety and feel uneasy? Are you looking for a dentist that puts your needs first?

At New Leaf Rohnert Park, our team of dental professionals understands that a trip to the dentist is not on anyone’s top list of things to do. However, we know the importance of quality dental care and what it means to your smile. With high-quality, experienced staff and cutting-edge technology, our team works with you to create an individualized treatment plan that fits your budget and allows you to put your best smile forward.

Schedule an appointment today and let us help you achieve good oral health and a beautiful smile.

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