Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases in America. Tooth decay, or dental caries, is a disease that causes structural damage to your teeth. Eventually, tooth decay can cause cavities, which are decayed out spaces in your teeth. Cavities are the most common result of tooth decay.
A lot of the time you might have cavities without even noticing them, until they start to cause severe pain or your dentists finds them. Cavities can express themselves in many different ways. Usually, cavities begin as a dull pain, but when left untreated they can progress into a painful abscess.
Other times, cavities don’t cause any pain at all, until the painful abscess has already formed. In some instances, cavities can present themselves as pain in your sinuses, cheek bones, or ears. There are many precursory signs that you’re experiencing tooth decay that should be treated before it blooms into a cavity.
7 Warning Signs You Have a Cavity
It can be difficult to notice you have a cavity, if you don’t overtly see or feel it. There are a lot of signs that you have a cavity and need to schedule a dental appointment. The majority of these signs are subtle and begin as tooth decay, while some of them are more painful and in your face.
- Dull spots on your teeth. When a tooth is in good shape, the outer layer of enamel has a translucent color, showing the healthy dentin layer below. One of the initial stages of tooth decay occurs when calcium and enamel in your outer layer of tooth is destroyed. When this happens, your teeth will begin to have chalky, smoky, or pale spots on them. If you notice this initial sign of tooth decay, you should get to your dentist, who will put you on an effective treatment plan. Your dentist can get you special fluoride rinses and toothpastes to strengthen your enamel.
- Food often gets stuck between your teeth. Have you ever bitten into a tortilla chip, only to have it disappear between the crevices of your teeth? As we mentioned earlier, cavities are hollowed out areas in your teeth. When you have a cavity on the side of your tooth, it can turn into a trap for food to get caught in. When you have a cavity between your teeth, it’ll make it harder to floss the food out. You’ll also notice that your floss gets frayed easily.
- Dental sensitivities to hot and cold. An early warning sign of dental decay is sensitive to hot and cold food. Sensitivity to cold food is fairly common; however, sensitivity to hot food tends to mean that your decay has progressed. Nonetheless, sensitivity to temperatures means that the tooth is still alive, and you can save it with a simple filling. You should try to get your tooth treated as soon as possible, so it doesn’t progress into a bigger problem.
- Trouble chewing on one area of your mouth. After decay reaches the inner layers of your teeth, it can make it painful to chew on the decayed area. This is because your tooth’s nerves are located at the center of your teeth, and when a cavity opens a hole to the center of your teeth, it exposes the blood vessels. At this point, you need to seek dental help immediately, so that you don’t end up losing the tooth or allowing it to die.
- When there’s a fracture in your molar. A sign of dental decay is easily chipped teeth. This typically occurs in your molars when you bite into something somewhat hard. When decay spreads to the inner layer of your teeth, it can make the overlapping layer of enamel vulnerable to fractures.
- Foul smelling breath. While bad breath can be a sign of other dental problems, like not brushing your tongue effectively, it can also be a sign that you have a cavity. When food gets stuck in a cavity, it can rot and cause bad breath. If you notice any changes in your breath, in tandem with any of the signs above, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist and mention your concerns.
- Inflammation in your gums. When tooth decay reaches the inner layers of your teeth, it can affect the gums and bones around the tooth. If you notice red or swollen gums around an infected tooth, you should get this treated immediately. In some cases, infected teeth can lead to sever pain, fever, and in rarer cases, death.
Some signs of cavities are silent, but if you pay attention to your dental conditions, you can put an end to your tooth decay. One way to maintain optimal dental health is by visiting your dentist regularly, even if there’s not pain.