“You have a cavity.” These are words that everyone dreads hearing when they visit the dentist. Good oral hygiene is obviously the best way to prevent cavities from forming; however, sometimes cavities happen even to those who practice good brushing and flossing.
What Exactly is a Cavity?
Cavities are caused when food and bacteria build up on your teeth and form plaque. The bacteria in plaque produce acids that erode the enamel on the surface of your teeth. Brushing and flossing regularly help to rid your teeth of plaque, but if plaque builds up, it can eat away at the enamel on your teeth and create cavities.
When a cavity forms, it creates a hole in your tooth. Some areas of your mouth that are at a higher risk of developing plaque buildup, and ultimately cavities, include the chewing surfaces of your molars, between your teeth and the bottom of your teeth near your gums.
Eating foods that tend to stick to your teeth may increase your risk of a cavity, so it’s a good idea to either avoid eating these foods too often, or at the very least, brush and floss as soon as possible after eating them. Examples of these foods include the following: ice cream, hard candy, soda, fruit juice, sugary foods, gummy candy, chips and dried fruit. And while cavities do tend to be more common among kids, adults are definitely still at risk, especially as you get older and your gums recede away from your teeth. This separation exposes the roots of your teeth to plaque and bacteria.
If left untreated, a cavity can permanently destroy your tooth and even cause more serious issues, such as an abscess or an infection that can be life threatening if it gets in your bloodstream. This is why it is so important to watch for the signs of a cavity forming, and see your dentist right away at even the slightest hint that something might be amiss in your mouth. Read on to learn about the top 5 signs that you may have a cavity developing in one of your teeth.
1. Tooth Pain
If you start to get a toothache, don’t hesitate to make an appointment to see your dentist. It is really important not to put it off, even if you only feel slight pain when you bite down on something hard. As a cavity develops, you may begin to experience pain even when you chew something soft, and eventually, you will feel consistent tooth pain even when not eating or drinking.
2. Tooth Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity is a less obvious sign that you may have a cavity developing. Tooth sensitivity tends to feel like a tingle or tickle at certain times, especially when eating or drinking something hot or cold, or biting into something very sugary, sweet or acidic. Tooth sensitivity typically occurs when bacteria begins to eat through the enamel on the surface of your tooth.
However, it could just be that you have sensitive teeth. The first step when you notice that your teeth are sensitive to temperature, or to a particular type of food, is to begin using toothpaste specially designed for tooth sensitivity. If after a few weeks the sensitivity doesn’t improve, you may have a cavity, so call your dentist right away to schedule an exam.
3. Spots, Stains, Pits or Holes
If you start to notice spots on your teeth, this could indicate that a cavity is forming. White spots are typically the first to appear, and as the decay becomes more advanced, there may be a darker stain that can be brown or black in color.
Eventually, these spots and stains will worsen if left untreated and will turn into a pit or hole in your tooth. If you feel a pit or hole in your tooth, call your dentist immediately so that the cavity can be cleaned and filled.
4. Bad Breath
As your tooth starts to decay, the bacteria will spread and penetrate throughout the tooth. This can cause bad breath, or halitosis. Chronic bad breath – meaning bad breath that doesn’t just occur after eating garlic fries or a cheeseburger with onions – can be a sign that an existing cavity is worsening. To avoid costly dental procedures, such as a root canal, see your dentist as soon as possible.
5. A Chipped or Broken Tooth
If you have a chipped or broken tooth, even if the chip or break appears minimal, it is important that you have a dentist look in your mouth and see if any repairs need to be made. Chips, cracks and breaks leave your tooth more vulnerable to invasive bacteria and plaque buildup.
If you notice any of the above warning signs of a cavity developing, don’t wait to contact your dentist for a complete exam. The sooner a dental professional treats your cavity, the better for your health and your wallet.