How to Tell if You Have Cavities

How to Tell if You Have Cavities

96% of Canadians have dealt with cavities at some point in their lives. Sometimes, people might not even know if they are suffering from a cavity.

If you’re feeling discomfort, suffering from tooth sensitivity, or have sore gums, you might be worried you have a cavity. You might also be wondering how to tell if you have cavities.

This article will walk you through some of the major signs that you have cavities and what to do about it.

What are Cavities?

Your teeth have a hard surface area that can occasionally form tiny openings. A cavity is when these holes get permanent damage. Anyone with teeth can be a victim of cavities.

What Causes Cavities?

Plaque has acid in it that breaks down the enamel of your teeth. This is what causes the tiny holes in your teeth.

Plaque can also build up on the outside of your teeth, causing you to feel a sticky film. This film is made of sugar and starches. Bacteria love to feed on this film.

Over time, this plaque can harden and be hidden under a layer of tartar. This tartar is difficult to remove and keeps the bacteria sealed against your teeth.

Bacteria can get into these holes and break into the layer of your teeth under the enamel called Dentin. The bacteria will move further into your teeth and begin to damage the pulp that contains your tooth’s nerves and blood vessels. The pulp will begin to swell and compress the nerves, causing pain throughout the entire tooth.

What Makes it More Likely You’ll Get Cavities?

Many different lifestyle choices can impact how likely it is that you will get cavities.

The food you eat or drink can make getting cavities more likely. Sugary food and drinks, hard candy, chips, and general foods that are harder for your saliva to wash down can cling to your teeth for long periods. The longer they cling, the more likely it is that bacteria will begin to feed on it.

Acidic drinks like soda can break down the enamel of your teeth. When this enamel breaks down, it’s easier for bacteria to get into your tooth and cause damage.

If you don’t brush your teeth often enough, it can be easier for plaque to form. Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent cavities. The more you get from toothpaste, mouthwash, and fluoride-treated water, the healthier your teeth will be.

A dry mouth can also increase your risk for cavities. A dry mouth is caused by not having enough saliva. Saliva washes away extra food and can help remove bacteria from your teeth. If you aren’t making enough saliva, the food and bacteria will sit on your teeth for long periods.

When you get heartburn, stomach acid can enter your mouth and cause damage to your teeth. Younger age groups and older adults who are starting to have their gums recede are also more likely to get cavities.

Cavity Signs

There are several signs you have cavities. Let’s begin with how your teeth feel:

Tooth Sensitivity

If you drink something cold or bite into ice cream and feel pain, you might have cavities. When you drink or eat something hot and feel pain, that’s another sign you might have cavities.

When the enamel of your teeth is damaged, the dentin becomes exposed. As hot or cold items hit your teeth, you will feel pain. Sometimes the pain only lasts seconds, but it can go on for minutes.


You use a lot of force to bite down onto foods. If you bite down and you feel pain, you probably have a cavity. You might feel this pain even more when you have cavities at the back of your mouth, because your molars do the bulk of your chewing for you.

Toothaches are another type of pain caused by cavities. It can be every once in and while or all the time. When the dentin in your teeth is damaged, the swelling compresses the nerves and causes pain.

Changes to the Way Your Teeth Look

Discoloration is one of the biggest signs of cavities. Brown or black spots, especially if they change in size, can be caused by cavities. Areas of your teeth that are an off-white color can also be a sign that your tooth is ravaged by a cavity.

A bigger sign that you have a cavity is if your tooth has a hole in it. Coloration is the first sign of decay, but as it gets worse, holes will form. Depending on the location, you will be able to see or feel the hole in your tooth.

Breath, Gums, and Pus

When you get cavities, bacteria in your mouth begin to increase. As the bacteria grows, it creates waste that will result in bad breath. Bad breath can also cause a bad taste in your mouth.

While bad breath can be combated with gum or increased brushing, effects like swollen or bleeding gums are not so easily ignored. If your cavity happens around the gum line, it can cause your gums to become swollen and bleed when you brush or floss. Sore gums can also be a sign of cavities.

You might have seen pus come from a cut or wound before, and we all know it can be a gross experience! The further along cavities get, the more likely it will become an abscess and fill with pus. This pus will collect and drain over and over again, causing intense pain.

Sometimes, There are No Signs

Cavities can take a long time to develop. You might not realize you have them at first. As cavities get worse, so will the symptoms. Or, if you have higher pain tolerance, more serious symptoms might not seem as bad.

What Can Happen to Untreated Cavities?

When cavities go untreated, they can impact all aspects of your daily life. The pain can become unbearable.

When it hurts to chew, you might avoid eating, which can cause severe weight loss or have an impact on your overall nutrition. It can be hard to focus on daily tasks when your body isn’t fulfilled.

As your tooth begins to decay, it might fall out. When your tooth falls out, there is no way to get it back in. You will either have to get a fake tooth or live with a gap in your mouth.

Abscesses caused by severe cavities and pus are already bad enough. But, as they get worse, you can get fevers. The abscess also leaves room for a more severe infection to take root in your mouth. An abscess can spread and multiply beyond the original tooth, which can cause even more pain.

How to Prevent Cavities

There are ways to prevent cavities before they start. Using fluoride more frequently in toothpaste or periodic treatments can flush out bacteria. Tap water can also have fluoride added to it, so don’t be afraid to drink from the tap now and again!

Frequent brushing will also help reduce the risk of cavities. When you brush, you get rid of the extra food left in your teeth. It’s recommended to brush twice a day, and after every meal if possible.

Eating foods that are good for your teeth can also protect your mouth. Fresh fruits, vegetables, tea, and sugar-free gum can all help your teeth. They either increase saliva flow or help wash away any leftover food particles.

One of the best ways to prevent cavities is by visiting your dentist regularly. The more you visit your dentist, the easier it is for them to know if something is wrong. A dentist can spot a cavity right away, which will reduce pain and get it taken care of right away.

How to Tell if You Have Cavities

Now that you’ve read ways of how to tell if you have cavities, it’s time to think about the next steps. When cavities are left untreated, they will get worse. As cavities get worse, the damage they cause can be more expensive to repair. The best thing you can do is go to the dentist the second you think you have a cavity.

If you live in Oshawa, Ontario, Taunton Village Dental will be able to help you take care of any dental need, especially cavities. We can treat your cavities before they impact your life. Dental health is one of the most important things you can do for your body, and we want to help keep your teeth in perfect condition.

Even if it’s been years since you’ve seen a dentist, we want to help you. Contact us today to set up an appointment.


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