Cavities are a more serious problem than a lot of people think. In fact, according to the CDC, more than 90% of the adult population in the U.S. have been affected with dental carries and have needed a filling.
It can be a bit of a shock to some patients when they find out that they’ve got a cavity. After all, they stick to a rigid oral hygiene routine – brushing, flossing, and rinsing every day – so where did this cavity come from? Why didn’t they see it coming?
Most cavities do go unnoticed in many cases. Everyone assumes that as long as they don’t feel any pain, they’re probably okay, so they don’t see the dentist as often as they probably should.
Still, there are a few ways that you can tell if you’re going to need a filling soon. And if you’re careful, and you pay attention, you can catch a small cavity before it turns into something much larger.
Can You Always Tell If You Have a Cavity?
The short answer to this question is: no.
Some cavities are just too hard to detect on your own. You may not feel a thing, and without a personal x-ray machine at home, you certainly won’t be able to see what’s happening down beneath the enamel.
Many cavities won’t even hurt until they’ve gotten so big that you might be heading straight into root canal territory.
There is a slightly longer answer, though, and it is this: there are some signs that may indicate that you have a cavity and it’s time to get into the office and get it filled.
What Are the Signs?
These are the things that indicate you may need a filling:
Tooth pain – If your tooth hurts without any obvious reason (you didn’t just receive some kind of trauma or eat/drink something seriously cold), then there is a problem. This pain usually comes from the infection reaching the nerves. At the same time, if tooth pain that occurs when you’re chewing, that is also an indicator of a cavity.
However, this is why it’s sometimes hard to tell on your own. You could have decay just under the surface of your tooth, eating away at it, but you won’t know until it touches that nerve. This is why annual checkups that include x-rays are so important.
Sensitivity – If you are particularly sensitive to hot and cold temperatures as well as sweet and sugary foods, your enamel may be wearing away. This is a sign that you need a filling to cover it back up.
Obvious holes or dark spots – Sometimes, you don’t need special equipment to tell if you have a cavity. There are times when it’s enough to look in the mirror. If you can feel a hole or a crack in your teeth with your tongue, or you notice a dark spot on the surface of the tooth, that’s probably another sign of a cavity.
Bad breath – Tooth decay can lead to constant bad breath. The bacteria that is causing the decay is also likely to carry an unpleasant smell.
Bad taste – As your tooth continues to decay, you may start to taste something very unpleasant. This could be the decay and the bacteria in your mouth.
Pus – If you see/taste/feel pus in your mouth, this is a pretty serious indicator. It means that there is an abscess, which requires immediate medical attention.
Prevention is Always the Best Choice
So yes, it’s possible for you to determine when you have a cavity. However, you need to remember that if you can detect it, then it has probably already progressed to a pretty serious level.
The best thing you can do for your overall dental health is prevent cavities before they get that far. That means coming in for your regular checkups so we can get a good look at your teeth. Even if you don’t feel any pain or detect any holes, there could be some decay at work and causing problems.
If you do start to see or feel any of the above symptoms, be sure you talk to us immediately so you can get the cavity filled.