Dental caries, also known as cavities or tooth decay, are permanently damaged areas on the surface of your teeth that develop into tiny holes or openings. Tooth decay is one of the most common dental conditions. It can be caused by various factors, including bacteria in the mouth, frequent snacking, sipping sugary drinks, and not properly cleaning your teeth. Children, teenagers, and elders are at the highest risk of tooth decay. However, anyone who has teeth can get cavities – even infants.
Untreated, cavities will eventually become larger and affect deeper layers of your teeth. Over time, the damage can become more severe and may lead to a severe toothache, gum infection, or tooth loss. Knowing the common symptoms of tooth decay and taking steps to prevent it is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy smile.
Top 5 Signs of Tooth Decay
In the beginning stages of a cavity, you may not have any symptoms at all. However, as the decay progresses, there are five major signs to watch out for:
1. Toothache or mild to sharp pains that occur with no apparent cause
A toothache is one of the most common symptoms of decay. Spontaneous, sharp pains may happen when you bite down on food, or you may experience an ongoing ache in one or more of your teeth. In these cases, a cavity is often to blame.
2. Hot and cold sensitivity
Hot and cold sensitivity typically occurs when the enamel on your tooth has started to wear away, exposing the hard tissue layer underneath called dentin. Dentin contains lots of microscopic hollow tubes, which are normally covered by a layer of enamel. However, when the enamel is damaged due to decay, hot, cold, or acidic foods can stimulate the nerve cells inside your tooth and cause sensitivity.
3. Lingering sensitivity to sweets
Hot and cold are the most familiar types of sensitivity when there is tooth decay. However, lingering sensitivity to sweets or sugary drinks is another common sign that you may have a cavity.
4. Staining on the surface of any tooth
Staining from cavities will look slightly different, depending on the stage of decay. At first, stains may appear as small white spots. However, as the cavity gets bigger, the stain will become darker, usually a light or dark brown. More advanced decay will eventually lead to black stains on the teeth.
5. Visible holes or pits in the teeth
Untreated, cavities will almost always get worse. Later stages of decay cause holes and pits in the teeth, which you will likely be able to see and feel. Some spots might not be particularly noticeable, but you may still feel pain or sensitivity in the area. A hole or pit in your tooth is a clear sign of tooth decay. If you suspect there is a hole on the surface of your tooth, contact your dentist immediately.
How We Can Help
At Highlands Ranch Dental Group, we can help you tackle tooth decay at any stage. If you’re noticing signs of tooth decay, contact us to schedule an appointment today.