6 Common Signs and Symptoms of a Tooth Cavity

Cavities are one of the most common dental problems of all. In fact, statistics show that 9 in 10 people will have at least one cavity at some stage, and many people have several cavities over the course of their lives. But what do cavities look like on teeth and how to know if you have a cavity? Read on for all the information you need about cavity appearance and signs you have a cavity.

What Do Cavities Look Like?

One of the most common questions people have about cavities is what do they look like? Well, the truth is that one cavity can look very different from the next. They can have different sizes and appearances. In general, they look like little holes or chips in the teeth.

They may also appear to be dark spots on the teeth, and they can vary in size, from a tiny hole in a tooth that is barely visible to a deep cavity that is almost as big as the tooth itself. Some cavities are so small that they can’t be seen with the naked eye, so you could have cavities without actually seeing them.


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What Is a Cavity?

So what exactly is a cavity? Well, in the simplest terms, a cavity is a hole in your tooth. You can get cavities all around the mouth, in any of your teeth, and it’s also possible to have a cavity between teeth, too. They’re a sign of tooth decay, and rotten teeth often have many cavities.

What Causes Cavities?

How do cavities form in the first place? Well, teeth are pretty strong and naturally resistant, but they can’t stay that way forever. They get exposed to all kinds of things in the foods you eat and drinks you consume, and over time, the strong enamel coating that covers your teeth starts to wear away. 

The acid in food is particularly harmful to this enamel coating, so if you eat lots of acidic foods, the coating will break down and your teeth will have less protection. In addition, bacteria in your mouth can feed on sugary foods, creating even more acids that build up in plaque around the teeth.

As the tooth decay stages continue, the enamel is broken down and white spots on your teeth can appear. If the damage is allowed to get worse without the enamel having time to repair itself, an early cavity can start to form, growing bigger and bigger over time.

How to Tell if You Have a Cavity

Cavities are not nice to have, and it’s best to get them treated professionally as soon as you spot the signs. Otherwise, you could find yourself dealing with a decayed tooth and even bigger problems. Fortunately, there are quite a few warning signs that may appear to let you know when you have a cavity. Here are a few of the most common signs.

  • Toothache

A very common sign of cavities is a toothache. You might notice a dull pain in your mouth or even through the sides of your face, leading up to your head, depending on the size and depth of the cavity in question.

  • Swelling or bleeding gums

Your gums can also suffer due to cavities, too. They can swell up and start to bleed. So, if you experience any pain, inflammation, or bleeding from the gums, it’s possible that you have a cavity that needs to be treated right away.

  • Sensitivity

Many people with cavities find that their teeth become more sensitive, as the delicate nerve endings are exposed. You may therefore experience pain or discomfort when eating hot foods or drinking something that is very cold.

  • Discolored or dark spots on a tooth 

Another way to spot cavities is to take a look at your teeth in the mirror, or with the help of a friend or family member. As stated earlier, cavities often appear as dark spots on the teeth. They may be yellow, brown, or black in color.

  • Hole in the tooth

One of the most obvious signs of a cavity is when you can clearly see it as a hole in one of your teeth. Often, you will experience other signs, like pain and sensitivity, before actually being able to see a cavity in this way.

  • Bad breath

Bad breath may also be linked to cavities and tooth decay. As teeth decay and rot away due to acid, bacteria, and plaque, it’s common for unpleasant odors to start appearing. This can result in not very fresh breath.

How to Prevent Cavities

There are several steps you can take to keep cavities at bay. Here are a few simple tips to follow: 

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a good quality toothpaste – ideally one that contains fluoride for cavity prevention. 
  • Floss teeth regularly after meals or in the evenings to get rid of any trapped or stuck food in between your teeth. 
  • Try to eat a balanced diet and avoid foods that are excessively sugary or acidic in high quantities. 
  • Get regular check-ups with your local dentist.

How Are Cavities Treated

If you get a cavity, it’s important to have it treated at your dentist. Cavities won’t simply heal themselves or go away on their own, and they can get bigger and lead to more severe tooth decay if left untreated. This can lead to severe toothache and discomfort, but your dentist will be able to treat the cavity. They may use different methods, depending on the depth and size of the cavity and the general health of the tooth in question. 

  • Fillings – Often, if cavities are spotted early on, they can be filled with a composite material, metal, or porcelain filling. 
  • Crowns – If the tooth decay is already quite severe, the dentist may remove the damaged section of the tooth and create a crown to cover up the damage. 
  • Root Canal – In the most serious cases, when the root of the tooth is dead or damaged, the entire nerve, blood vessels, and the decayed tooth will need to be removed and sealed up in a procedure known as a root canal.

To avoid dental cavities, practice good oral hygiene and notify your dentist if you experience any symptoms. The sooner you detect a cavity, the more likely it is that you will only require a dental filling rather than a more invasive procedure.

Our top priority is your dental health. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or believe you have a cavity, please contact us right away to schedule an appointment.