Cavities, also called carries, are holes in the teeth that result from tooth decay. These holes may start off tiny, but they can grow and severely damage the teeth. Untreated cavities can cause multifarious additional health problems, such as infections, increased risk of memory loss, and gum disease. Cavity symptoms don’t always show up, which can lead people to going without treatment for long periods.
You don’t want to wait until you’re in pain to see the dentist because it may have progressed too far to save the tooth. Below we explain the most common symptoms of a cavity that should make you call your dentist and schedule an appointment.
11 Common Cavity Symptoms and Signs
Most people know that cavities are those small black spots that sometimes form on your teeth. Those black spots are signs of tooth decay, not something you ever want to find on your teeth. Cavities are not always visible. Cavity symptoms depend on their location and severity. Bellow you will find the most common cavity symptoms and signs that you should not ignore.
1. Sharp pain when biting down.
If just after biting into a hard food, you feel a sudden and sharp pain that quickly disappears, it could be because the tooth has a crack. This is a sign that the nerve is already infected, and the tooth is in an advanced process of decaying. Schedule a dentist appointment as soon as possible.
2. Sensitivity to temperature changes.
Infected teeth are often highly sensitive to hot or cold foods and drinks. This is a symptom you might experience when the cavity gets larger and closer to the nerve, making it more sensitive to sudden temperature changes.
3. Consistent bad breath odor.
Cavities start as tiny holes that sugar and acid cause in the enamel. When bacteria gather in these holes, they can create bad odor and a persistent bad taste in the mouth. If you notice this permanent bad odor, ask your dentist to find the source of bacteria. Halitosis can be a sign of other dental problems, such as the gum disease.
4. Small holes in the teeth.
Poor oral hygiene leads to the buildup of plaque, a film of bacteria that produce acids. These acids eat away the hard, outer surface of the tooth, called the enamel. This process is gradual, firstly causing tiny holes in the teeth, that are not painful. If left untreated, the decay process will continue, infecting the pulp and the entire tooth. However, at this stage, treatment is simple. The dentist will recommend you to use fluoride, a mineral that will stop the early tooth decay.
5. Dark or white spots on the teeth.
Some cavities do not start as tiny holes in the teeth, but rather as black, brown, or even white spots on the surface of the infected tooth. While some spots are natural stains, spots on teeth certainly are among the symptoms of cavity. It is important to have your dentist evaluate your spots on teeth.
6. Tooth discoloration or teeth darkening.
It is true that teeth may darken due to tobacco, coffee, tea, and other foods, or following a trauma. However, tooth discoloration can be a sign that the tooth is infected and a cavity is forming underneath. In some cases, the entire tooth becomes darken, soft and very likely to chip, break off and cause a big hole. Tooth discoloration is a cavity sign you should never ignore. It usually signals that the cavity that developed under the surface of the tooth is deep and requires urgent treatment. The dentist may recommend you to take x-rays to evaluate these teeth stains.
7. Recurrent bleeding when brushing teeth.
Most people know that frequent bleeding when brushing is not normal and it can be an alarming sign of gum disease. But recurrent bleeding may also signal a deep cavity at the gum line. In some cases of severe cavities, the blood comes right from the infected tooth.
8. Swollen gums.
Many people ignore this cavity sign because swelling of the gums is not always painful. However, if you notice local swelling around one tooth, you might have a deep cavity. Swelling might be caused by a tooth infection. See a dentist even if you do not experience any pain.
In most cases, stabbing, persistent toothache is one of the most obvious cavity symptoms. Left untreated, the infection can cause an abscess that might cost you the entire tooth. However, you should keep in mind that toothaches are not always caused by cavities. That’s why it is important to have a professional dental check.
10. Headache and Pain.
As the cavity progresses and the acids eat away the enamel, and the pulp, the nerve is directly exposed to hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks. The tooth nerve responds to these stimuli, sending pain signals to other parts of the face. That’s how deep cavities can cause severe headaches or jaw pain.
11. Abscessed Tooth.
If you leave a cavity untreated for a long time, the bacteria will spread throughout your tooth, infecting the tooth pulp and causing throbbing pain, swollen gums and jaw, and fever. The dentist will give you antibiotics for the infection and perform a root canal or even extract the tooth.
Cavity symptoms should never be ignored, because a cavity that becomes severe enough will require the entire tooth to be removed. To keep your teeth healthy, regularly see the dentist for checkups, even if your teeth appear fine. The earliest stage of cavities usually has no obvious symptoms or pain.
What’s the worst cavity you’ve ever experienced? Or are you one of the lucky few who’s never had a cavity? Share your experiences in the comments below.