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Cavity Symptoms 101: How to Recognize the 7 Most Common Signs

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Do you find yourself worrying about having cavities because you haven’t visited the dentist in a while? It’s a common concern, and by reading this blog post, you’ve taken the first step in addressing it. I’m here to help you understand the symptoms of cavities so you can gain some clarity on the matter.

However, my top recommendation is to schedule a dental appointment with a specialist as soon as possible, especially if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms we’ll discuss. Prompt treatment of cavities not only reduces pain, but also helps maintain the health of your teeth and reduces costs in the long run. The sooner you address any potential issues, the quicker and easier it will be to resolve them.

7 most common signs for cavity symptoms

1. Pain to cold

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Teeth are unique in that they only have nerves that respond to pain. You’ll never hear someone say they feel too hot in a tooth, for instance. The nerve endings in teeth are only activated by pain, which means that when teeth experience wear, micro-cracks, or small cavities, you’ll feel pain.

In addition to pain, teeth can also experience sensitivity to cold for other reasons. However, it’s crucial to be especially attentive when pain is activated, as it can be an early indicator of decay.

At this stage, the decay may be so small that it looks like a small scuff or white spot. If it’s a white spot, treatment options can include microabrasion with a special gel or fluoride applications to remineralize the tooth. It’s essential to address these issues as soon as possible to prevent the decay from spreading and causing further damage. Regular dental check-ups can help catch these issues before they become bigger problems.

2. Pain to heat or sweet

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As cavities progress, the pain associated with them is not just limited to cold foods, but also includes heat and sweet foods as the lesion grows larger. It’s essential to be vigilant about this sign, as it could indicate that if no action is taken and a dentist isn’t seen soon, it could quickly progress to the nerve and cause even more pain.

To address this issue, it’s necessary to take an x-ray at this stage to determine how far the decay has advanced. This can include a general or panoramic x-ray, or more specific x-rays like periapical x-rays that have less distortion. Additionally, during the evaluation appointment, other tests may be done in the clinic, such as heating a special dental wax and gently applying it to the tooth, or using a cotton pad impregnated with a cold liquid to test for sensitivity to cold.

It’s important to catch cavities early on, before they progress and cause even more pain or damage. By staying aware of the signs and symptoms, and scheduling regular dental check-ups, you can stay on top of your dental health and catch any issues before they become bigger problems.

3. Black spots on teeth

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The grooves found on molars can sometimes have dark spots that are caused by food pigmentation from items such as coffee, or habits such as smoking. Alternatively, they could also be small cavities. It’s important to have a dentist examine these spots using special instruments in their office, as ignoring this signal could lead to a cavity that’s referred to as “masked.” This means that on the surface, it appears to be just a small line or perforation, but on the inside, it may have already formed a silent and large lesion.

To address this issue, if the spot is just a stain, it can be left alone for observation. Some patients may request the removal of these stains for cosmetic reasons, but this can actually cause more damage to the tooth by removing healthy enamel and replacing it with restorative material. If it’s determined that there is a lesion, an x-ray can help define the real size of the cavity and guide the appropriate treatment, which could involve the use of resin, inlays, or a crown depending on its size.

It’s important to seek regular dental check-ups to ensure that any signs of tooth decay are detected and addressed early on, before they become more severe and lead to additional damage or pain. By taking care of your teeth and addressing any potential issues as soon as possible, you can maintain good oral health and prevent more serious dental problems in the future.

4. White stains on your teeth:

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Many people believe that cavities only show up as black marks on their teeth, but this is not entirely true. In fact, cavities can start as white spots on the teeth, which gradually damage the enamel’s shine and eventually turn yellow, brown, or even black. It’s essential to identify these white spots early on to prevent them from becoming more severe.

To solve this issue, it’s recommended that you visit a dentist to determine whether the white spots are caused by caries, fluorosis, or other temporary factors like dental whitening. If the white spots are caused by caries, the dentist may suggest a topical treatment with fluoride, as well as the use of fluoride toothpaste. If it’s fluorosis, a dental microabrasion procedure may be necessary, which involves using abrasive gels, protectors, and a rotating piece to carefully remove the spots.

It’s worth noting that regular dental checkups and good oral hygiene habits, like brushing and flossing, can help prevent the development of white spots and cavities. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain healthy habits and consult a dentist as soon as you notice any unusual signs on your teeth.

5. Bad odor

The presence of bad odor may indicate that a tooth has been silently decaying and the decay may have spread to the nerve, causing the bad odor. For more information on bad breath or halitosis, you can refer to my blog where I have clearly explained the possible causes and remedies.

To address this issue, a clinical examination along with periapical radiography is required to confirm the diagnosis. The most likely solution would be to seek the help of an endodontist, who will remove the infected nerve, fill it with special material, and restore the tooth with a seal. Depending on the severity of the damage, the restoration can be done with resin, dental inlay or dental crown. It is important to address the issue as soon as possible to avoid further complications.

6. Fractures for no apparent reason

Cavity Symptoms

It is not uncommon for patients to come to the dentist with a fractured tooth caused by seemingly harmless soft foods such as bread, bananas, or ripe mango. This can be confusing for the patient as they wonder why such a small force caused such a large fracture. However, this can be attributed to the silent damage caused by cavities, which weaken the tooth from the inside out, similar to how termites damage wood. Once the cavity has weakened the tooth enough, even soft foods can cause significant damage and result in large fractures that may require restorative treatments such as crowns or implants.

It’s important to note that cavities often start silently, and it’s crucial to detect them early through regular dental check-ups and X-rays. By catching cavities early, the dentist can provide treatments such as fillings or fluoride treatments to prevent the cavity from progressing and damaging the tooth further. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain good oral hygiene habits and visit the dentist regularly to prevent cavities and avoid tooth fractures caused by weakened teeth.

7. Sometimes, not sign at all

Cavities can often go unnoticed and cause serious damage to the teeth over time. In some cases, cavities can slowly damage the nerves over a period of several years, resulting in the need for more extensive dental treatments. Sometimes, a small cavity can be discovered during a routine dental check-up, but further examination may reveal a much larger cavity hidden beneath the surface.

To prevent this from happening, it is important to be proactive about dental care, especially if you have a history of cavities or any other risk factors such as decalcification, pregnancy, dry mouth, or a high sugar diet. Regular dental check-ups and X-rays can help detect cavities early on, when they can be treated with less invasive and less costly procedures. This preventative approach to dental care can save you from the discomfort and expense of more extensive dental treatments down the road.

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