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How Do You Know If You Have a Cavity? Signs and Symptoms of Dental Decay

June 15, 2021
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Posted By: Bryant Anderson, DMD
Cavity help and General Dentistry in Winter Park, FL

How Do You Know If You Have a Cavity? Signs and Symptoms of Dental Decay

One of the most common questions your dental team hears whenever a patient comes in for their regular health check is: “Do I have a cavity?” It’s almost as though many of our patients assume they will get decay on a regular basis. (But since you’ve been flossing every day and brushing well, obviously that’s not you. Right?)

If you’re concerned you might be experiencing dental decay, here are a few signs and symptoms to look out for.

Symptoms: Do Cavities Always Hurt? 

Many times, patients will tell us they believe they have a cavity because a tooth hurts. However, it can be hard to tell one type of tooth pain from another. So how do you know if your pain is coming from decay or another problem?

Decay Might Make Your Tooth Feel Sensitive

Rapid shifts in temperature and pH can activate the sensitive nerves in your teeth. However, not all sensitivity is the same.

If you have decay, hot or cold foods could really get your teeth talking. However, sugary foods like chocolate and acidic foods like pineapple frequently also trigger sensitivity due to decay.

How can you tell if it’s just general sensitivity or a symptom of a cavity? Pay attention to whether you can isolate the sensation to one tooth, or even one particular area of the tooth. Also, if the symptoms feel intense and linger a little, it’s definitely something to let your dental team know about!

Decay Might Make Your Teeth Ache

Sometimes, cavities ache without a trigger. So there you are, minding your own business, when you get that nagging feeling in one particular spot. It may come and go, or worsen with time. Random aching and throbbing is usually a significant symptom and something we want to know about right away.

Decay Might Not Hurt At All!

However, just because your teeth feel fine doesn’t mean you’re cavity free. In fact, many cavities can go for a really long time—sometimes years—with no symptoms at all. It’s estimated that around 30% of adults in the US have active, untreated decay. Many of those people may not even know there is a problem. That’s why it’s so important to get your regular dental health checks!

Signs: How Can We Tell For Sure?

Have you ever taken a good look in your mouth? I’m talking good lighting and just an inch away from the mirror? If not, you may want to take a peek sometime.

Sometimes, cavities are pretty obvious. You may notice big brown spots that look like potholes in your teeth. However, what about small areas of bright white chalky enamel? Believe it or not, that could indicate decay! What about those areas where the teeth touch, which you can’t see with the naked eye? Or cavities that don’t show on the surface but can completely hollow out the inner layer of the tooth?

Not all cavities will show in ways you can see or feel. That’s one big reason we recommend regular check-up x-rays and full dental exams. That way, we can catch these developing cavities early in the process, which makes them easier to treat.

Why wait for pain if we can prevent it altogether? Call our office to schedule your oral health check and get that clean bill of dental health. Let Anderson Family Dental take cavities off your worry list!

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