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Signs That You May Have a Cavity

March 11, 2022

Cavities are permanent damage that occurs to your teeth as a result of tooth decay/rot. There are bacteria in the mouth that try to break down the minerals in teeth and cause holes. Cavities can happen more frequently in others due to diet and medical conditions. Dentists are in the best position to determine whether or not you have a cavity, but these are the signs you should look for. If you notice any of the symptoms, consider scheduling a visit to your dentist as soon as possible.  

What Causes Cavities?  

Cavities occur when the enamel of the teeth is eroded by plaque and bacteria. Plaque is a combination of saliva and food that films the teeth and fuels bacteria. Eating foods high in sugar and starch can lead to more plaque on your teeth. If you don’t properly brush and floss your teeth, the plaque will stay and cause problems for your teeth.  

Over time, plaque hardens and creates tartar. Tartar is a hardened layer of plaque that is even harder to remove. The tartar forms a barrier around the plaque, allowing bacteria to freely feast on your tooth enamel, thus causing holes in your teeth.  

If you don’t notice the cavity at this stage, the bacteria will get into the softer layer of the tooth referred to as dentin. At this stage is when teeth become increasingly more sensitive to eating hot, cold, and sweet foods. This is when people commonly notice they have a cavity.  

If left untreated, the bacteria can get further and further into the tooth causing problems like extreme discomfort and severe infections.  

Chances of Getting a Cavity 

Most people have had a cavity or multiple in their lifetime. Children and older adults are more likely to get a cavity. You’re more likely to get a cavity in the back of your mouth where your teeth have more grooves and spaces for food to be stuck in. Cavities are more likely when you eat a lot of sugary foods, or drink sugary and acidic drinks like soda-pop. If you don’t brush your teeth well enough, you aren’t ridding the teeth of plaque buildup that causes cavities.  

Those with an existing health condition like dry mouth, heartburn, eating disorders, or acid reflux are more likely to have cavities. Your saliva breaks down the food stuck in your teeth, so if your mouth is dry there’s less saliva to break food down and allows more plaque to form. Those with heartburn and acid reflux have acids in the mouth that eat away at the enamel of the teeth leaving them more susceptible to cavities. Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia also cause changes to the mouth’s environment, leaving people more likely to get cavities. 

Signs You May Have a Cavity 

You likely have a cavity if you feel any of these symptoms: 

  • Toothaches 
  • Sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweet foods 
  • Pain while eating/drinking 
  • Visible holes in the tooth  
  • Irregular staining of the teeth (white, brown, or black spots on the tooth) 
  • Bad breath (decay smells!) 

If you notice any of these symptoms and they continue for 24-48 hours, make an appointment to get your teeth checked before it gets worse.  

Reduce the Chance of Cavities 

You can significantly reduce your chances of getting cavities in your mouth by eating healthier foods, following a dental hygiene routine, and going to your dentist every 6 months. Processed foods with high sugar and carbohydrate content are more likely to get stuck in your teeth, so you’re more likely to end up with cavities! Reducing the amount you snack throughout the day can also lower your risk of cavities.  

Properly brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day is a no-brainer for reducing the risk of cavities. Plaque causes cavities, so brushing your teeth and removing plaque twice a day will significantly reduce the cavities that form in your mouth. Make sure you use toothpaste that contains fluoride, as it’s known to significantly reduce the chances of a cavity.  

Going to the dentist and having your teeth looked at twice a year can reduce the risk and severity of your cavities. The dentist has tools to remove any tartar and plaque buildup and can perform x-rays on your teeth to see any damage that may be lying beneath the surface of the enamel. They can also give you fluoride treatment, which strengthens the enamel of your teeth and significantly reduces the risks of getting cavities! 

Sinquefield Family Dentistry is committed to providing the best dental care for all ages. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!