Do I have a cavity?
No one ever wants to get a cavity. Yet, cavities are one of the most frequent tooth problems people face, regardless of their age. At least one in four adults over the age of 20 have an untreated cavity. With such a high likelihood, it is not surprising that parents wonder if they or their children are developing a cavity, despite regular visits to the family dentist.
When cavities remain undetected, the tiny holes and narrow crevices can become infected. Left untreated, they can result in tooth loss. Not only that, but failure to address a cavity can result in significant financial expenses that could have otherwise been avoided.
Even if you have had a cavity, you might not know how to recognize one. Many of us only find out we have one during our routine visits to our family dentist. After all, the benefit of these regular visits is that your dentist can identify a cavity forming in the early stages and recommend treatments to prevent it from worsening. This often happens before we experience any discomfort.
What happens if you leave a cavity untreated?
Before we share how to know if you have a dental cavity, let’s reiterate what happens when a cavity is left untreated. When a cavity doesn’t receive the proper attention and treatment, it can lead to a tooth infection called an abscess. Tooth decay can destroy the tooth’s pulp (the inside), which then requires more extensive treatment. In extreme cases, it can lead to the removal of the tooth altogether.
Though cavities don’t always cause a toothache, tooth abscesses usually do. If the abscess ruptures, the pain might dissipate, but treatment will still be necessary. The abscess must drain so the infection does not spread to the jaw or other head and neck areas. As diseases spread, there is an increased risk of sepsis, which can be a life-threatening condition.
5 Signs You Might Have a Cavity
Cavities eat away at the tooth’s enamel until they reach what is called the dentin. The dentin is the part of the tooth that sits beneath the enamel and cementum. When the enamel wears away, the dentin’s tubules allow hot, cold, acidic, and sticky foods to stimulate the nerves. This results in tooth sensitivity.
The best way to prevent this from happening is to pay attention to signs indicating you might have a cavity.
1. Tooth Pain
If you or your child is experiencing tooth pain, it is time to see a dentist. During the early stages of cavity development, you may experience pain when you bite down onto something hard, such as a piece of candy. As the cavity worsens, you might also experience pain when chewing softer foods.
2. Tooth Sensitivity
Though not as apparent as pain, if you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, it is another indication that you might have a cavity. Tooth sensitivity often feels like a tingle in your teeth. Your teeth may become sensitive due to the bacteria eating away at your tooth’s enamel, as the enamel protects the nerves in your teeth.
If you experience tooth sensitivity, you may wish to try sensitive toothpaste as sometimes people experience sensitivity even when they do not have a cavity. If the sensitive toothpaste doesn’t solve the problem or relieve the uncomfortable tingling sensation, it would be wise to pay a visit to your family dentist.
3. Bad Breath
If you or your child seem to be experiencing persistent bad breath despite regular brushing, flossing, and use of mouthwash, this could also be a sign it is time to see the dentist. The same bacteria that cause cavities can cause bad breath.
4. Pus in the Mouth
If pus has developed in the mouth, this means your cavity has already reached the abscess stage. Abscesses are extremely painful and can also be accompanied by fever and swollen glands. If you still haven’t been to the dentist and find pus in your mouth, you must see your family dentist as soon as possible. Without antibiotics and treatment, the infection can worsen and spread to other parts of the body.
5. Chips or Dark Spots
If a cavity has developed over time without treatment, it is possible to see it with the naked eye. Cavities look like dark spots that have formed on the infected tooth. If you see discoloration on your teeth or your kid’s teeth, this means you may have a hole in the tooth, which is an indicator of a cavity. These spots usually appear gray, black, or brown.
If your tooth breaks in any way, it can also be an indicator of a cavity that needs treatment. If bacteria is the cause of the break, it can sometimes mean the tooth can’t be saved, which can cause the need for a dental extraction.
How can I prevent a cavity?
The best way to prevent a cavity is to ensure you are maintaining an excellent at-home dental routine and consuming a healthy diet so you can have a healthy mouth, teeth, and gums.
- Brush with fluoride toothpaste after eating or drinking.
- Rinse with a fluoride mouthwash.
- Visit your family dentist at least once every six months for routine teeth cleaning.
- Consider dental sealants for school-aged children and adults.
- Drink tap water with added fluoride.
- Avoid frequent snacking and sipping.
- Eat tooth-healthy foods and reduce consumption of acidic and sugary foods.
- Consider fluoride treatments.
Think you have a cavity in Greensboro, NC?
If you or a family member is experiencing any of the signs of a cavity, it is important to get dental treatment as soon as possible. Farless Dental Group can identify if you have a cavity, abscess, or other dental concern that needs to be addressed. Contact us online to schedule an appointment with our friendly staff at our Greensboro, NC family dentistry clinic. We are conveniently located in the Oakcrest Dental building and are ready to help treat your cavity and get you on your way to better oral health.