How to Tell If You Have a Cavity

Daily Health Solutions
April 13, 2012

If these symptoms are present, it may be time to call the dentist.

Whether you call them cavities, caries or tooth decay, if you have teeth, it can happen to you. Cavities are one of the most common health issues worldwide. A cavity damages the hard surface of a tooth. It can leave several small pits or a single hole where the surface has decayed. Cavities, typically, need to be treated by a dentist. Certain symptoms may indicate you have a cavity that needs dental attention.

In the beginning. As a cavity begins to form, there may not be any symptoms. Cavities can develop on any tooth. Your dentist may be able to detect the very early beginnings of a cavity during a routine checkup. Dental X-rays often can show the start of a cavity before even the dentist can see it. These may be called pre-cavities.

Tooth decay causes symptoms. The Mayo Clinic lists six symptoms of cavities and tooth decay. These symptoms will vary upon the individual, the amount of decay and the location of the cavity. The symptoms are:

  • Toothache
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Pain when eating or drinking, especially anything that is sweet, hot or cold
  • Holes or pits in a tooth that you can see without an X-ray
  • Pain when you bite down, even when not eating
  • Pus around the affected tooth

Pain. Toothaches can be painful. A cavity can create a stabbing pain each time you chew something on that tooth, clench your jaw or even as you sit there doing nothing. If you have a tooth that is causing pain, contact a dentist. Toothaches can be distracting, affecting your ability to concentrate at work and keeping you up at night, depriving you from a good night’s sleep. If a fever accompanies the toothache, call your dentist and schedule an appointment.

Sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity to temperature variations affects many people. Sometimes the reason for tooth sensitivity is a cavity. When the top layer of tooth enamel decays and the cementum layer underneath is affected, the dentin underneath can become exposed resulting in sensitivity. If you experience tooth sensitivity, tell your dentist. He or she will determine if the tooth sensitivity is a symptom of a cavity that needs to be treated.

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