Despite a clear understanding of the cause of tooth decay and the availability of educational information to help prevent it, cavities are still a prevalent problem among both children and adults. Most cavities (more than 90%) are preventable. This article does not aim to teach you how to prevent them, though. In this article, we will discuss the common symptoms of a cavity.
But first, we must ensure that you understand the most important thing to know about cavities.
The Most Important Thing to Know About Cavities
Cavities begin as very small areas of weakening on the outer layer of enamel. They slowly progress inward, creating an actual hole or “cavity” in the hard tooth structure. The most important thing to know about cavities is that they do not cause any noticeable symptoms at their earliest stages. For this reason, we urge you to not wait until you experience cavity symptoms before seeking attention from a dentist.
The best strategy for finding and treating cavities early is to see a dentist for consistent evaluations with dental x-rays about once every year. When you catch them early, not only is the treatment less expensive and less extensive. Sometimes, you can intervene and reverse the damage. This only works on very early decay and only if you seek preventive dental care!
- Sensitivity to Sweets
Many people note a sensitivity to sweets, particularly refined sugars in candy or soda when they have a significant cavity. As the decay progresses closer to the nerve chamber inside the hollow center of the tooth, the effects of the cavity-causing bacteria are more likely to cause some type of sensation.
When you ingest large quantities of sugar, the bacteria living in dental plaque ingest the simple carbohydrates and produce a strong acid. This acid destroys enamel and the other hard tissues of a tooth. This acid can be irritating to the tooth’s nerve if it gets close enough.
- Sensitivity to Cold
Similarly, as decay destroys the hard tooth structure and creates a physical opening in the tooth, it brings the temperatures of the food and drinks we ingest into closer approximation to the nerve within.
The nerve is not supposed to feel the sharp sensations of hot and cold because it is encased in strong, healthy enamel. When decay has destroyed the enamel, it also eliminates the insulation effect enamel provides. This means that your tooth can feel the sensations of cold more profoundly.
In general, the nerve is more sensitive to cold first. As the nerve’s condition deteriorates, it may also become sensitive to heat.
- Visible Dark Spots on Teeth
Not all dark spots are cavities. There are many areas on the teeth that collect stains. They may look like cavities but simply be an area of external staining.
However, it is important to remember that any area on the teeth collecting stain is also collecting bacteria. When bacteria resides in a deep groove or pit for long periods of time, decay is likely.
If you see any cavity signs, such as dark spots or lines on your teeth, then speak with your dentist for an evaluation. The dentist will evaluate to determine whether your dark spots are simple staining or the beginning of a cavity. If the diagnosis is only staining, ask your dentist about your preventive options. It is always less expensive to take preventive measures than to wait until you have an active dental disease to repair.
- Cracks or Holes Detectable with Your Tongue
In some cases, cavities do not cause sensitivity or pain. Some teeth are difficult to view without dental mirrors and a bright light. The irregular shape of your tooth and the difference when you feel it with your tongue may be the only cavity signs that you notice.
As decay progresses and grows inside a tooth, the underlying softening of the hard tooth structure may lead to a sudden loss of enamel through very light forces. The process is like a tree that suffers disease and rots from the inside. The outer layer of bark may look normal, but if you touch it, it easily collapses under any pressure. The same is true of a tooth with large decay. There may be a thin shell of enamel giving the appearance of health, but chewing normal food can cause it to break, leaving a gaping hole.
If you notice anything on your teeth that feels like a hole or crack, schedule a dental visit as soon as possible. You could have large decay requiring treatment to prevent a dangerous infection.
More Questions about Tooth Decay Symptoms? Call Rockland Dental Today!
Call Rockland Dental Specialists today at (845)-259-2500 to schedule a consultation with our dental experts about your cavity symptoms. We can assess your current situation and advise you on the best path forward to a completely healthy mouth.