Cavities can be extremely painful, not to mention annoying and destructive. Luckily, they are fairly easy to treat if they are caught in the early stages. So, how do you know if you have a cavity?
Detecting Cavities is Cooperation Between You and Your Dentist
Think of cavity detection as a joint work effort between you and your dentist. A dentist only sees you once every three to six months. In that time between appointments, a cavity can not only develop, but it can rapidly progress to a point where it destroys the enamel on your teeth or causes infection. That is why you need to be vigilant.
If you know what signs and symptoms indicate the possibility that a cavity is developing, you can quickly schedule an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist can assess the situation, determine if you have a cavity, and get it treated. This can all happen before too much damage has occurred to your teeth.
Look for Discoloration or Spotting on the Teeth
The earliest signs of tooth decay are discoloration and the appearance of pale white spots on the teeth. Discoloration and spotting happen to the teeth because tooth decay slowly starts to break down the enamel on your teeth. When the enamel on your teeth starts to break down it causes your shiny, white teeth to develop an off-white, yellow, or brown color.
It is important to note that just because your teeth are discolored; it doesn’t mean you have tooth decay. Some conditions, such as leaking fillings or use of too much fluoride, can cause your teeth to appear discolored. A dentist can fully assess the situation with an oral examination and x-rays to determine if any discoloration is caused by tooth decay or a cavity.
Sensitivity to Cold, Sweet Treats, or Hot
When you take a sip of a cold glass of water or a cup of coffee, if you feel a sharp, shooting pain in one area of your mouth, it could be caused by a cavity. Tooth decay slowly wears down the enamel on your teeth. That enamel is a protective layer that covers the nerves of your teeth. If it becomes worn down – either due to tooth decay or the formation of a cavity – it can cause you to experience extreme pain that lasts anywhere from a few minutes to several days.
If you experience any sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet treats, bring it to the attention of your dentist during your next regularly scheduled appointment. If the pain becomes extreme or unbearable, you may want to schedule an appointment earlier than your next scheduled appointment.
Persistent, Unexplained Pain
Over time, if a cavity has been left to destroy your teeth for too long it can eventually cause persistent, unexplained pain. This pain typically occurs at any time of the day and isn’t directly caused by something, such as brushing or flossing or eating a certain type of food.
The pain you are experiencing is caused by the exposure of the nerve in the tooth. A cavity will eat through the enamel and will eventually expose your tooth’s nerve. When the nerve is exposed anything from a slight intake of your breath to just moving the wrong way can cause pain.
In addition to an exposed nerve, unexplained and persistent pain may be caused by an infection. If a cavity is left untreated for a long time, it can cause bacteria to spread throughout the body and lead to a serious infection.
Schedule an Appointment with Your Dentist
When you schedule an appointment with your dentist, he or she will conduct a visual examination of your teeth and look for any signs of tooth decay or cavities. Some cavities can be detected with a visual examination, but typically further examination is needed.
Your dentist will typically order a series of x-rays to help detect cavities. The x-rays allow your dentist to look in hard-to-reach areas. They can also help discover deep cavities that are so advanced they no longer exhibit any symptoms.
If you suspect you have a cavity or are in need of scheduling a routine examination, call Artistic Touch Dentistry. We will gladly schedule an appointment for you that fits your schedule.