What Are the Early Signs of a Cavity? (+ What to Do Next)

Cavities are common, in fact, the only condition more common than cavities and tooth decay is the common cold. Some cavities fly under the radar, but most have early warning signs that will show themselves. The early signs of a cavity can easily be ignored or associated with other issues so be sure to pay attention. If you start to experience any of these early signs of a cavity, make an appointment with your dentist ASAP before the cavity has time to spread.

1. Toothaches

Toothaches are frustrating because they can be one of the early signs of a cavity but they could also be brought on by injury or sinus infections. That being said, tooth decay is the most common cause of toothaches. If a toothache comes on suddenly and nothing else about your health has changed, it could definitely be one of the early signs of a cavity.

The tricky thing about cavities is that at first, you probably won’t feel anything because there are no nerves in your tooth’s enamel, which is where cavities start. Once a cavity gets through your enamel, it keeps drilling down into the next layer, which is called dentin. From there, it works its way to the pulp which is made of living tissue and that’s when many people begin to feel that sharp tooth pain that seems to come out of nowhere. If you have a toothache before you start to feel that sharp pain, don’t ignore it. It could be one of the early signs of a cavity and the sooner you get treatment, the better.

2. Sensitivity

Some people have sensitive teeth but sudden sensitivity can be one of the early signs of a cavity. If you have a cavity, you may feel sudden sensitivity when eating or drinking something cold, hot, acidic, or sweet. That is an indicator that a cavity has made its way down to the dentin of your teeth and into the microscopic tubules where it is stimulating nerves and cells inside your teeth.

If you have unusual and sudden tooth sensitivity, it’s time to see a dentist. If you’re experiencing actual pain and not just sensitivity, you should take immediate action and see a dentist ASAP because that could be one of the early signs of a cavity getting into the more advanced stages.

3. Discoloration

You probably know that coffee and soda can discolor your teeth but that type of discoloration is usually consistent and uniform across all of your teeth. If you see discoloration that is different in hue or color from the rest of your teeth it may be a sign of tooth decay. Cavities start off white but they can easily stain and stand out.

4. White Spot or Hole

One of the early signs of a cavity is a white spot on your tooth but over time, that spot can transform into a hole. This happens when the cavity begins to burrow into your tooth and is eroding it. If you can see a white spot or a hole that is visible to the naked eye, it’s time to see your dentist. Even if you can’t see a white spot or a hole in your tooth, you may be able to feel a roughness against your tongue and it’s not uncommon to feel these rough spots before they transform into something more visible like a hole.

5. Pain When Biting

If you experience pain when biting down and putting pressure on your teeth, you may have a cavity that has inflamed the pulp of your tooth. This inflammation creates a sharp, quick pain when attempting to bite. If left untreated, this inflammation can result in the living tissue of the pulp dying from infection which creates even more pain as your bite presses down on the root instead of the pulp.

6. Lax Oral Hygiene Habits

Sometimes cavities don’t cause any pain at all but they are still hard at work causing damage to every part of your tooth. If your oral hygiene habits have slipped or been lax lately and you haven’t seen a dentist in more than 6 months, it’s time for a visit. The longer that food particles remain in-between your teeth, the more likely that the bacteria in our teeth have the chance to form cavities.

Cavities can be hiding in hard-to-reach areas that you aren’t able to brush or floss well and they may not cause you pain at first, or ever. These rare cavities are insidious because you have no warning that something is wrong. A cavity can damage a tooth so badly that it needs to be extracted and prevention is your best course of action in avoiding that painful path.

If you aren’t sure what to do about a cavity, you aren’t alone! If you suspect that you may have a cavity or are experiencing any of the early signs of a cavity, the first step is to see your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist will know what to do about a cavity and they will likely start with an x-ray to determine how the cavity has progressed into the tooth. Depending on how severe the cavity is, you might need a filling to fix it. If the tooth decay is very severe, your dentist might replace the tooth with a crown or perform a root canal but that is something that is only required in very severe cases.

Even if you don’t think you have a cavity, regular professional cleanings are important. This allows us to identify and monitor any problems you have, use a fluoride treatment to help strengthen your teeth and reverse the very early stages of decay, and give you tips on the best ways to brush your teeth because all of us miss spots without realizing it.

At The Silverstrom Group, we keep a close eye on potential tooth decay to make sure that it doesn’t progress into something more painful and serious like gum disease. Gum disease has been identified as the most abundant source of chronic low-grade inflammation that causes a decrease in our immune response, and eventually, irreversible damage to the immune system. Heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, pregnancy complications, and even cancer have been linked to gum disease. Your mouth is a window to your health and we aim to protect it.

When it comes to cavities, taking preventative steps is a lot easier and less painful than treating the problem down the road. If you think you have a cavity or you’re in need of a professional cleaning and dental exam, contact us now to schedule your appointment!



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