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How to Know if You Have a Cavity

Apr 19, 2018 · Filed under Education

Dr. Kyle Carney

Cavities are one of the most well-known dental ailments, but they are hard to diagnose on your own. We’ve listed a few symptoms you might experience if you have a cavity, but first, let’s talk about what causes tooth decay.

Dr. Kyle Carney

What Causes Cavities

Cavities are one of many forms of tooth decay. It begins with the bacteria in your mouth. Though they occur naturally, the bacteria thrive when you consume sugary foods and drinks.

When those sugars aren’t cleaned off, they feed on them and produce acid. The bacteria, acid, and leftover food particles come together to make plaque, which eats away at the enamel on your teeth, often creating holes. Those holes are what we know as cavities.

Learn more about how we treat cavities here or keep reading to learn how to tell if you have a cavity.

signs of a developing cavity

Tooth Sensitivity

One of the first things you might feel when you develop a cavity is tooth sensitivity. It comes in a form of uncomfortable tingling or tickling in your teeth whenever you eat something hot or cold, or even something acidic or sugary.

This feeling occurs when bacteria wears down your enamel, which protects the nerves within your teeth. As that protective layer weakens, the nerves become more and more sensitive to normal signals.

Surface-Level Stains

As the protective layer is further weakened, that hole might not show up right away. Instead, you might see a gray, brown, or black spot. If you see a spot, that means bacteria are worming their way into your enamel. If left untreated, actual holes will develop.

Visible Holes 

This is a pretty evident sign of a cavity. Sometimes cavities can develop on the chewing surface of the tooth, also known as the occlusal. Cavities that develop here are easy to see and easy to treat.

However, cavities often develop on the sides that are up against your other teeth (the sides facing the front of your mouth are called mesial, while the sides that face the back of your mouth are called distal). These are harder to see without the use of the mirrors and tools that we have.

A Toothache or Pain

If something hurts, something’s wrong.

Whether you’re biting down or experience a constant ache, any tooth pain can signify that you have a cavity.

At first, you may only notice pain when you bite on something hard. As the cavity progresses, you could feel pain even when you bite something soft. Or, if your cavity is still left untreated, you could have a constant toothache. This pain does not go away; it’s your body’s way of telling you that something is really wrong.

Nothing At All

In the early stages of cavity development, there are few to no symptoms. However, this is the best time to catch a cavity, before it gets worse. The best thing to do is to come in often enough so that we can catch a cavity before there is any further damage.

We recommend that people should come to the dentist at least twice a year for cleanings. It’s at this stage that we can see tooth decay often before it becomes a problem, saving you from the pain and the costs of cavities. 

Dr. Robert Hortman

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, come talk to us right away so we can nip any pain and discomfort in the bud.

Dr. Robert Hortman

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