A cavity is a common dental problem that occurs when bacteria in your mouth produce acid that eats away at the enamel and dentin of your tooth. Tooth decay can cause pain, infections, and tooth loss if left untreated. While regular visits to the dentist can help detect cavities early, it can also be helpful to keep an eye out for the following signs and symptoms of tooth decay so you can get treatment as soon as possible.
Causes of Cavities:
Several factors can lead to the formation of cavities, including poor dental hygiene, consumption of sugary foods and drinks, dry mouth, and normal wear and tear. Poor dental hygiene can lead to the buildup of plaque and tartar, which can cause cavities. Consuming sugary and starchy foods and drinks provides a source of food for bacteria in your mouth. A dry mouth reduces the amount of saliva in your mouth which can help wash away food particles and bacteria. Normal wear and tear can also make teeth more susceptible to cavities, especially when combined with any of the aforementioned factors.
Signs of Cavities: How to Know if you have a Cavity
Usually, cavity symptoms are not noticeable until the area of tooth decay gets larger. If you suspect that you might have a cavity, pay attention to the following signs:
1. Toothache or sensitivity
One of the most common signs of a cavity is a toothache or sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks. You may feel a sharp pain or a dull ache in your tooth when you bite down on something, making it difficult to eat or drink.
2. Visible holes or pits in teeth
Another telltale sign of a cavity is the appearance of visible holes or pits in your teeth. These small, dark spots are the first signs of tooth decay and can become larger over time if left untreated. They may be visible on the surface of your teeth or hidden in the crevices between your teeth.
3. Bad breath or foul taste in the mouth
If you notice that you have bad breath or a foul taste in your mouth despite good oral hygiene, it might be due to a cavity. Bacteria in your mouth can produce unpleasant odors and tastes, especially if a cavity is left untreated and begins to affect the root of your tooth.
4. Stains on teeth
Stains or discoloration on your teeth, especially those that are brown, black, or gray, can also be a sign of cavities. These stains may appear in the form of bands or lines on the teeth and are often caused by the breakdown of the enamel.
5. Pus or swelling around a tooth
In some cases, a cavity can lead to an abscess, a painful dental infection that can cause pus or swelling around a tooth. This condition requires immediate attention and treatment from a dental professional to prevent further damage to your teeth, gums, and jaw.
Prevention of Cavities:
It’s important to have regular dental checkups and cleanings usually every 6 months, so your dentist can catch any potential tooth decay early before it becomes a cavity. Preventing cavities requires a combination of good dental hygiene and a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips to help prevent cavities:
1. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
2. Floss daily to remove food particles between teeth
3. Limit sugary and starchy foods and drinks
4. Drink plenty of water and chew sugarless gum
5. Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups
Treatment for Cavities:
To catch cavities early on and avoid some of the detriments that they cause, being aware of the many symptoms of cavities will aid you in getting cavities and potential cavities treated before they develop too far. If you do end up with a cavity, your dentist will likely recommend a filling. This involves removing the decayed part of the tooth and filling the cavity with a material such as metal, resin, porcelain, or ceramic. In some cases, a root canal or even an extraction may be necessary.
Tooth decay is a common dental problem that can be prevented with good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups. If left untreated, cavities can spread to the root of a tooth and can cause jawbone damage — a condition that requires expensive, invasive, and lengthy procedures to treat. Remember, early detection is key to maintaining good dental health and preventing tooth loss. If you notice any of the above signs or symptoms of a cavity, schedule an appointment with us today!