Dentistry Tips: How Do I Know If I Have a Tooth Cavity?

Dentistry Tips: How Do I Know If I Have a Tooth Cavity?

Tooth cavities are no longer just a problem for kids anymore. According to dentistry research, more than one in four adults in the U.S. have untreated cavities. While maintaining proper oral health helps prevent cavities, they can still develop. In fact, most people don’t know they have them until they visit the dentist for routine examinations.

It’s essential to know how to spot the warning signs of cavities so you can get treatment and prevent extensive tooth decay. Keep reading to learn about cavities, their causes, and how to know if you have one.

What is a Tooth Cavity?

A cavity is a hole that develops in your tooth as a result of the destruction of the outer part of the tooth called the enamel. Cavities are also known as tooth decay or caries, and they occur progressively over time. Cavity formation progresses in the following stages:

Stage 1: Tooth Demineralization

Due to poor oral hygiene, a soft, sticky, and bacteria-laden film known as plaque develops on the tooth enamel. The bacteria in the plaque start to feed on sugars from the food you eat. During this process, they release acids that deteriorate the tooth enamel and kickstart a process known as demineralization. This is where the tooth starts to lose calcium. This stage is characterized by bright, white spots on the tooth enamel.

Stage 2: Enamel Decay

As the bacteria continue to erode the tooth, the enamel starts to decay. At this point, you will notice black or brown spots on the affected tooth. As the enamel continues to break down, it becomes easy to see the black spots, especially on the lower teeth. You may also start to experience pain in your tooth.

Stage 3: Dentin Deterioration

The dentin is one of the inner layers of the teeth, and it is located just underneath the enamel. Once the enamel suffers extensive deterioration, the decay extends to the dentin. It is at this point that you may start experiencing severe sharp pain in your tooth. Extensive decay of the dentin causes it to collapse, leading to the formation of a hole.

Stage 4: Pulp Infection

Untreated cavities lead to the infection of the pulp, which is located underneath the dentin. The pulp houses the tooth’s central nerve and blood vessels. Thus, its infection causes severe pain that can result in a dental emergency.

Stage 5: Swelling and Formation of Abscess

Once the pulp is infected, your tooth becomes susceptible to swelling and pus formation. This stage can prove fatal as the infection can spread to the blood, jaw bone, and soft tissue. Dentistry experts suggest that tooth infections that spread to other parts of the body can lead to brain abscess, heart inflammation, and other severe complications in extreme cases.

What Causes Cavities?

Cavities are caused by a myriad of factors such as the following:

  • Inadequate and improper brushing and flossing which encourage plaque formation, especially in the hard-to-reach molars.
  • Consuming sugary food and drinks regularly. These create a constant supply of sugars for the bacteria to feed.
  • Eating foods that tend to stick on the teeth. These include hard candy, chocolate, cake, ice cream, and sugar. 

Besides diet, there are other risk factors that expose one to cavities. First, children tend to be more prone to getting cavities compared to adults. Second, adults suffering from dry mouth due to the use of certain medications may get more cavities. Saliva has elements that help counter the effects of acid on the enamel.

Finally, certain pre-existing conditions such as acid reflux disease can introduce stomach acid in the mouth and cause enamel deterioration. As you can see, cavities can result from poor oral hygiene as well as a variety of other factors.

Symptoms of a Tooth Cavity

The first step towards managing cavities is identifying their symptoms. Be on the lookout for the following signs which indicate you may have a tooth cavity:

  • Consistent bad breath
  • Tooth pain 
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks
  • White, black, or brown spots on the teeth
  • Visible holes on your teeth

If you notice any of these signs, visit us at Ideal Dental immediately for a checkup and treatment.

Treatment Options for Cavities at Ideal Dental

At Ideal Dental, we offer various treatment options depending on the extent of the decay. For cavities in the demineralization stage, simple fluoride treatments can help restore the calcium in the enamel and halt tooth decay. However, as the decay progresses, there’s a need for extensive treatment, which may include dental fillings, root canals, and use of crowns.

When you visit our clinic, we will conduct a medical diagnosis to ascertain the extent and severity of the cavity. After this, we will recommend the best treatment option to manage the cavity and restore your tooth.

How to Prevent Cavities

As part of our treatment, we offer invaluable advice on how to prevent cavities in the future. Some tips include the following:

  • Brush your teeth after every meal using fluoride toothpaste
  • Reduce your intake of sugary foods, especially in between meals
  • Eat healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables 
  • Visiting your dentist for checkups

You won’t know for sure if you have a cavity or not until you visit a dentist. So, stop by Ideal Dental for regular checkups or if you feel any of the above symptoms.

Ideal Dental was founded in 2008 and has over 80 locations across the state of Texas. Ideal Dental offices provide patients with a wide range of dental services including general dentistry, teeth whitening, orthodontics, oral surgery and emergency dental. Ideal Dental’s mission is to put smiles on the faces of hundreds of patients that visit its offices daily.