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What is a Cavity, and How Can You Tell if You Have One?

added on: May 2, 2024

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that close to 30% of Americans have untreated cavities. Don’t become a statistic; instead, learn how to spot them before they progress and how to protect your teeth against bad bacteria in the first place.

First Things First, What is a Cavity? 

When we eat and drink, food and bacteria naturally build up on the teeth. This can form plaque, which produces acids that erode the enamel found on the surface of the teeth. The best way to fight back is to brush your teeth twice daily and floss your teeth regularly to help get rid of unwanted plaque and bad bacteria.

A cavity is the result of bacteria eating away at the tooth and causing decay. Anyone with teeth, including babies, can get a cavity. Left untreated, cavities can get larger and affect the deeper layers of teeth, resulting in pain, sensitivity, discoloration, and, in extreme cases, tooth loss. 

Signs and Symptoms of Cavities 

These are some of the most common indicators of a cavity. If you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, consult your dentist to determine the best course of treatment.

Sensitivity to Temperatures

One of the most common indications that you may have a cavity is a lingering sensitivity after you eat or drink something hot or cold. This is a result of thinning tooth enamel, and pain can be caused by triggered nerves. In some cases, roots may be exposed, which can trigger intense sensitivity in patients.

Discoloration of the Teeth

If you’ve recently noticed a dark spot on one of your teeth, typically either brown or black, this is a sign that you may have a cavity. In some cases, the spot may be a lighter shade, such as an off-white. These discolored spots show where the bacteria has begun to make its way to the enamel — which means you should make an appointment ASAP to stop further progression.

Persistent Toothache

A classic sign of a cavity is a toothache. Whether it’s a dull ache that you feel occasionally or a more constant pain that feels almost debilitating, these are indicators that you should have your teeth checked out. Toothaches are caused by inflammation around an affected tooth, which creates pain and discomfort for the patient.

Holes or Pits

If you can see or feel a hole in your tooth, this means that the cavity has already progressed. At this point, it’s likely that the patient will need multiple fillings or perhaps a root canal to address an infection. Patients who have noticed a hole or a pitted area should contact their dentist immediately to begin treatment and to save the tooth if possible.

Worried About a Cavity? Let Us Help! 

If you’re afraid you’re experiencing the onset of a cavity, give My Rivertown Dentist a call today. Our friendly and professional team has experience treating cavities, and we provide tooth-colored fillings for patients worried about their smiles.