Cavities Might Not Hurt, So Here Are Three Important Warning Signs

Watch out for cavities

Tooth decay is a serious issue, but it can be managed with effective prevention and early treatment. Catching a cavity before it gets too advanced can help avoid more extensive procedures, such as root canal treatment, down the line. 

However, it isn’t always easy to tell when you have a cavity as they don’t always cause pain or other noticeable symptoms. In these cases, watching out for other warning signs can be key.

When do cavities cause pain?

Pain and sensitivity are among the most widely known symptoms of a cavity. However, you may not notice those symptoms until tooth decay has gotten out of control. 

A hard outer layer called enamel protects your teeth  and this is where a cavity will first start to form. But there aren’t any nerves in this layer, so you can’t actually feel it. The next layer, dentin, is softer than enamel but also will not alert you to advancing decay..

Inside the dentin, you’ll find the pulp, which contains the nerves and blood vessels of your tooth. It’s this part that causes you to feel tooth pain and any sensitivity to hot or cold. You may feel mild to sharp pain when you bite down on something. 

Tooth decay that has reached this layer calls for more than just a filling. You’ll often need root canal treatment to prevent a serious infection.

Cavities work their way in from the outside of the tooth, so it takes time until you develop a toothache, which can be dull or severe. You can start to experience increased sensitivity as the protective layers get thinner, but you won’t notice serious symptoms until the inner layers are exposed. 

That is why the best course of action is to watch for other signs of a cavity.

Cavity Warning Signs Other Than Pain 

There are three ways to know that you may have a cavity even when you feel no discomfort:

1. Discolored Spots on Your Teeth

When a cavity starts to develop, the first noticeable sign is discoloration. Tooth decay starts when bacteria in your mouth secrete acids that remove minerals from your enamel. This weakens the enamel, although there isn’t any physical pit or hole yet. Demineralization can create small white spots on your tooth.

You can take action to reverse any damage at this stage. Fluoride treatment helps remineralize enamel, so visiting your dentist and improving your oral hygiene can prevent a cavity from developing any further.

As tooth decay continues, the enamel will start to break down and deteriorate. At this point, you may notice brown or yellow spots. This is more noticeable than the white spots from the first stage. You may be able to notice them by closely inspecting your teeth using a flashlight.

It can be difficult to look at teeth near the back of your mouth, however, which is where cavities are most common. And just because you can’t see any discolored spots doesn’t mean that tooth decay isn’t taking place. This is where routine dental visits come in.

2. You Haven’t Kept Up with Routine Appointments

The best way to protect yourself from cavities is to keep up with routine visits with your dentist. You should come in every six months for an evaluation and teeth cleaning. During the evaluation, your dentist can identify tooth decay and other issues, and the teeth cleaning removes plaque and tartar that cause decay and gum disease.

If you haven’t been to the dentist in a longer period of time, you could have cavities now without realizing it. The longer you go without identifying those cavities, the more serious your treatment can be in the end. If you don’t visit your dentist until you start developing a toothache, then you are more likely to need a root canal treatment.

Your dentist can identify signs of tooth decay and cavities early on to implement practical prevention. They can advise you about changes to your oral hygiene that could prevent tooth decay in the future.

3. Visible Pits or Holes

As cavities progress, they can form noticeable holes in your teeth. They work their way through the enamel and dentin, eventually reaching the pulp. Depending on how far they’ve progressed, you may be able to notice visible pits or holes. You might be able to feel them with your tongue as well.

If you inspect your teeth using a mirror and light and notice any visible holes, then you should see the dentist immediately. You may need a filling to protect your tooth, if you’re not already at the point where you need a root canal treatment. 

Cavities don’t just go away, as enamel can’t grow back. It’s important to get the treatment you need for your oral health.

Taking the Best Care of Your Smile in Edwardsville, IL

Hite Family Dentistry is your source for top-quality Edwardsville dentistry to prevent and treat cavities and tooth decay. You can count on our friendly team for your family’s routine evaluations and preventive care. And if you do have a cavity, we provide tooth-colored fillings that are practically unnoticeable. Book an appointment today to take care of your smile.