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How to Know When You Have a Cavity

A cavity refers to tooth decay that happens because of prolonged exposure to bacteria in the mouth. When dental hygiene is neglected (or, you’re eating more sweets than usual), it is easier than ever for bacteria to thrive on your teeth, which erodes the enamel and leads to decay. 

We often think of cavities as black spots on the teeth, and while this is a visible sign that you may have one, there are other ways to know, too. It’s important to know these signs so that you can schedule a filling at your dentist’s office as soon as possible, as cavities that are left untreated can lead to more extensive tooth decay damage. 

1. Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. 

Whether it’s a spoonful of ice cream or the first sip of hot coffee, temperatures that are either hot or cold will feel painful to a tooth with a cavity. This is because the tooth decay exposes the nerves in your teeth, making them more sensitive to the temperatures that originally felt comfortable. You may feel this sensitivity on one tooth specifically. 

This sensitivity can also show up if you eat or drink something that’s sugary. Your favorite soda or piece of cake might actually feel uncomfortable to consume. This, too, is due to the erosion of the tooth and exposure of the nerves.

2. General toothache. 

Sometimes, cavities can cause general discomfort around the tooth. You may notice this when you bite on the tooth, or it could be a subsisting discomfort, whether you’re eating or not. A toothache is always a sign of some underlying problem, cavity or otherwise. 

3. White spots, or staining

Open wide and peek into a mirror to catch a glimpse of the suspected cavity tooth. Do you see any white spots, darker spots, or even little pits or holes? This can be challenging to see without dental tools or up-close access, but more often that not, there will be some visible evidence that a cavity is present. 

A white spot indicates the beginning of a cavity, whereas a dark spot shows that the cavity has advanced. In either case, scheduling a filling immediately is recommended.

Visit the Dentist

While the above are strong signs that you may have a cavity, a dentist will be able to give you confirmation. Dentists can tell by analyzing the depth and coloring of the spot up close, and also by prodding with dental tools to see if the tooth’s enamel has eroded.

Regardless, any type of sensitivity, toothache, or change in coloring warrants at least a call to your dentist’s office. Staying on top of your oral health prevents any other problems down the line. 

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