• February 16, 2024
  • Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh

Cavity Symptoms: How To Tell If You Have A Cavity

What is a cavity? Also known as dental caries, they are areas of tooth decay that develop over time due to a combination of factors including diet, oral hygiene, and the presence of bacteria in your mouth. In our latest blog we dicuss cavity symptoms, how to tell if you have a cavity and the best treament options. Read on to find out all you need to know.

What Causes Cavities?

Cavities are the result of tooth decay, a process that begins when bacteria in your mouth convert sugars from food particles into acids. These acids can erode tooth enamel, the hard outer layer of your teeth, leading to cavities. Frequent consumption of sugary drinks and snacks increases the risk of decay, highlighting the importance of brushing with fluoride toothpaste to prevent cavities.

cavity symptoms

What is a cavity? Dental plaque is a leading contributor to cavity formation; regular brushing and flossing can effectively prevent tooth decay by removing plaque buildup.

Common Cavity Symptoms

Recognising cavity symptoms can help catch them early, preventing further decay and potential tooth loss.

Toothache and Sensitivity

Tooth pain and sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods can often indicate a cavity. As decay progresses through enamel into dentin, it exposes the sensitive parts of the tooth, causing discomfort.

Visible Holes or Pits in Your Teeth

Visible holes or pits on the chewing surfaces of your teeth are a clear sign of dental cavities. These openings can collect food particles and become breeding grounds for bacteria, exacerbating tooth decay.

Staining on the Surface of Your Teeth

Tooth discoloration, ranging from white spots to dark stains, can be an early sign of cavity formation. These spots may indicate demineralisation of the enamel and the beginning stages of decay.

cavity symptoms

What is a cavity? A dry mouth lacks the saliva necessary to neutralise acids and wash away food particles, making it a significant risk factor for the development of cavities.

How to Tell If You Have a Cavity

Early detection of cavities is key to preventing serious dental issues. Knowing when to seek professional evaluation is crucial for maintaining oral health.

Professional Dental Assessments

Regular dental checkups are vital for diagnosing cavities, often before they become visible or symptomatic. Dentists use various tools and techniques to detect cavities, including visual examinations, dental probes, and x-rays, ensuring that even cavities hidden between teeth or under fillings are identified.

When to See Your Dentist

If you experience any symptoms of a cavity, such as tooth pain, sensitivity, or visible signs of decay, it’s important to see your dentist as soon as possible. Early intervention can prevent more serious problems and potentially save teeth that might otherwise be lost to decay.

cavity symptoms

What is a cavity? Untreated tooth decay can progress to more serious conditions, such as a tooth abscess, highlighting the importance of early intervention to stop tooth decay.

Treatment Options for Cavities

Advancements in dental care have provided several effective treatments for cavities, ranging from fillings to more comprehensive procedures for advanced decay.

Fillings: The Most Common Treatment

For most cavities, dental fillings are the standard treatment. The decayed material is removed, and the cavity is filled with a material such as composite resin, which closely matches the colour of natural teeth and restores the tooth’s integrity.

Crowns: For Larger Cavities

When cavities are large or the tooth structure is weakened, crowns are often used. These coverings are placed over the remaining part of the tooth, providing strength and preventing further decay.

Root Canals: When Cavities Reach the Pulp

In cases where decay has reached the tooth pulp, causing infection or abscess, root canal treatment is necessary. This procedure involves removing the infected pulp, cleaning the inner chambers of the tooth, and sealing it to prevent further infection.

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Below you can find more FAQs addressing ‘What is a cavity?’ and cavity symptoms. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information, or you can use the online form to book an appointment.

How do I check myself for cavities?

Conducting self-examinations involves observing any changes in the appearance of your teeth, such as discolouration or small openings, and being aware of increased tooth sensitivity or discomfort. While these practices can help identify potential issues, some cavities might not be evident, underscoring the importance of periodic dental evaluations.

Can a cavity go away on its own?

Once established, a cavity signifies permanent tooth decay that cannot heal by itself. In its early stages, demineralisation of the enamel can be counteracted with fluoride treatments, yet once decay forms a cavity, professional dental intervention is necessary.

What does the start of a cavity feel like?

In its initial stages, dental caries might not present any noticeable symptoms. As the decay progresses, it may lead to increased sensitivity to sweet, hot, or cold consumables, indicating the onset of a cavity or tooth decay.

Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh
About The Author

Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh

Catherine-Anne is a New Zealand-qualified dentist. She holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Sydney University and she has a broad range of experiences from working in both the public and private sector.


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