You get an ache in your tooth throughout the day; you bite down on something sweet and feel a sudden shooting pain; you see a small pit in your tooth that wasn’t there before – could you have a cavity?
What is a Cavity?
Many people think that only children get cavities, but anyone can develop tooth decay, which leads to cavities. When plaque builds up on your teeth in the form of a clear film of bacteria, it combines with sugars in the foods we eat to create a layer of acid, which wears away at the surfaces of teeth. The enamel deteriorates over time, and a cavity – a small hole in the tooth – forms. Cavities leave your teeth extremely vulnerable to infection, gum disease, and tooth loss.
How Can I Tell if I have a Cavity?
Although you may notice a toothache or pain when eating something particularly sweet or sour, most people don’t even realize they have a cavity until they see their dentist. However, there are a few telltale ways to detect cavities if you’re concerned about whether or not you have them.
- Bad breath and foul taste. If you have tooth decay, you may start to notice the people around you flinching when you open your mouth. If you begin to brush and floss more and still notice bad breath or a foul taste in your mouth, it’s likely that you have pretty severe tooth decay, which could cause a cavity.
- Pain and sensitivity. Tooth pain and sensitivity are often linked to cavities, although not all cavities cause pain. Generally, pain is caused by advanced cavities that have gone untreated. Sensitivity can also point to cavities, but in many cases, people who experience tooth sensitivity could suffer from a variety of dental issues. If you experience pain and sensitivity, especially when eating something very sweet, visit your dentist to determine the cause.
- Dark spots and holes. Cavities that have gone untreated for a while typically become visible in the form of a dark spot or a hole in the tooth. You may feel the hole with your tongue, or notice an area of discoloration. These are symptoms of severe cavities.
- Pus Pus is the most serious consequence of allowing a cavity to go untreated, because it indicates an infection or abscess in your tooth. These infections can lead to fever and require emergency medical attention. If you notice pus – usually yellow or light green – in your mouth, visit an urgent care physician immediately.
Although cavities can be tricky and may go undetected for months at a time, you can prevent cavity-causing tooth decay by brushing and flossing daily to remove plaque buildup, and by seeing your dentist twice yearly for checkups.