Have you ever felt something wrong with your teeth—such as when chewing your food—and wondered whether it was serious enough to schedule a dental visit? Indications of a cavity can range from minor sensitivity to much more intense pain. These experiences usually reflect some fundamental problem with your oral health, and in many and perhaps most cases, those issues will not go away on their own.
Cavities—also known as dental caries—are the earliest stage of tooth decay. Chances are, you will experience a cavity at some point in your life. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of all American adults age 20 and up have experienced some tooth decay.
Cavities are rather small to begin with and often as tiny as a pinhole. This decay is caused by bacteria and acids in the mouth. Caught early enough, cavities are reversible. But early cavities can be difficult to detect if you are not a dentist. Most go unnoticed and thus quickly become permanent.
Even if you do not catch a cavity early enough to reverse it, there are treatment options available to you. The earlier you see your dentist, the easier the fix and the smaller the hit to your wallet.
Not all cavities are the same. There are three core types:
- Smooth surface—This kind of decay occurs on the sides of the teeth. It generally happens due to plaque accumulation, which ramps up over time due to poor oral hygiene.
- Pit and fissure—This type forms on the chewing surfaces of the teeth, especially the back teeth. It is caused by poor oral hygiene as well and can become quite severe very quickly.
- Root—This form of cavity occurs on the tooth root. Since the root is covered by soft gum tissue, this type is more common among older people who have already experienced gum recession.
Signs You May Have a Cavity
The American Dental Association warns that it is common for people age 50 and up to have active tooth decay. The ADA data also shows a high likelihood of cavities among children. While discomfort or pain may be the most obvious sign you have a cavity, there are a number of indications to look for:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold
- Pain while chewing or biting down
- Tooth discoloration: white, brown, or black
- A visible hole in the tooth even if it causes no pain
- Discomfort ranging from dull aches to stabbing pains
Treating a Cavity
It is better to avoid a cavity than treat one. You can do that through good oral hygiene at home and biannual visits to your dentist for a cleaning and checkup. Your dentist can detect underlying oral issues long before they manifest into something more serious.
While an early cavity can be reversed, you generally cannot treat a cavity on your own, and if you do not seek professional treatment right away, it can become much more serious in a short period. Your dentist will want to get you into the office fast and perhaps even the same day you call.
During the appointment, your dentist will perform a visual inspection and assess your pain level, and in many cases, the exam will advance to digital X-rays and other advanced technologies. If the cavity is detected early enough, a fluoride treatment may be enough to correct it. If the cavity has progressed, a more invasive solution will be necessary. These treatments include fillings and crowns but also extractions and root canal therapy if the tooth decay is advanced.
Keep Your Smile Cavity-Free
If you experience any of the cavity indications discussed above, Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, strongly urges you to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Better yet, avoid those cavities altogether by having your teeth cleaned and examined twice a year. Dr. Clark and his team at Scottsdale Dental Excellence can help ensure that you never experience a cavity again. Call us at 480 585 1853 to schedule a checkup.