How to Tell If I Have a Cavity
Identifying cavities — and the treatment necessary to fix a cavity — are best left to a highly-skilled dentist like Dr. Vartikar at Nirvana Dental. There are, however, cavity symptoms you may notice that should prompt you to call for an appointment. There are also factors that may put you more at risk for cavities. Dr. Vartikar can assess your risk factor for cavities and give you suggestions on how to lower that risk.
Do I Have a Cavity?
Dental cavities are a bacterial infection. Most of the bacteria in your mouth are necessary healthy bacteria. The balance between healthy bacteria and destructive bacteria is disrupted by many factors leading to cavities or dental decay.
Here some of the factors that may increase your risk for cavities:
- Dry Mouth. Dry mouth occurs when the saliva glands don’t produce enough saliva to continually wash away food pieces and dilute the bacteria concentration. Dry mouth can be caused by several factors, including stress, certain medications, smoking, age, cancer treatments and some autoimmune diseases.
- Heartburn. Heartburn and GERD introduce strong stomach acids to the mouth that weaken the tooth enamel over time. Enamel loss is the perfect opportunity for bacteria to invade the tooth and create a cavity.
- Eating Disorders. Eating disorders like bulimia bombard teeth with stomach acid on a regular basis, while anorexia deprives the body of nutrients and weakens the jawbone.
- Foods and Drinks. Certain foods and drinks create a perfect environment for cavity-causing bacteria to thrive. Simple carbohydrates, sugary food, juices and soda feed the bacteria, enabling it to produce the acid that causes cavities. All-day snacking or sipping soda also contributes to the problem.
- Low Fluoride. Fluoride is recommended for children and adults, especially if you are at high risk for cavities.
- Worn Filling. A worn or cracked filling can also allow for decay bacteria to reach the inside of the tooth. Sometimes the filling will fall out when it’s undermined with decay. Ideally, worn or cracked fillings should be replaced when diagnosed.
What Are Cavity Symptoms?
If you haven’t been to a dentist in a while or are between dental checkups, these symptoms are alerts that you should call for an appointment. Since dental decay is progressive and not self-correcting, a delay in treatment could result in a more painful cavity and a more costly restoration. Any one of these may indicate you have a cavity:
- Pain While Chewing. If any of your teeth cause you pain when chewing, you could have a cavity or a cracked tooth. Both situations require immediate attention.
- Hot and Cold Sensitivity. If you notice hot, cold or sweet sensitivity in any of your teeth, you should bring this to the attention of your dentist.
- Chips, Cracks and Holes. If you feel chips, cracks or holes with your tongue or you can see them, chances are good you have a cavity that needs to be fixed.
- Dark Areas. If you notice a darkened tooth or a darkened area on a tooth, see your dentist. You could have active decay in the tooth.
- Chalky White Spots. Chalky white spots are a sign you have demineralization going on. This is when the minerals of the tooth break down, allowing easy access for bacteria to create a cavity.
- Bad Breath/Bad Taste. If you notice an odor or foul taste in your mouth, even with regular brushing, flossing and rinsing, you may have a cavity.
- Pus. Pus indicates an abscess. This is an urgent situation, especially when accompanied by swelling and pain.