A large cavity may be accompanied by tooth pain. Rather than a continuous ache, pain from a cavity is typically spontaneous and may occur without an apparent cause. Sometimes, biting down can cause pain.
Decay can spread from the enamel to the inner portion of the tooth, exposing the nerves. This can make you more sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and certain foods.
Changes in the appearance of your tooth can also indicate an issue. Brown, black, or white staining on the surface of any tooth may signify a cavity.
Am I at a high risk for cavities?
Everyone is at risk for developing cavities. However, there are certain factors that can increase the chance of tooth decay, including:
Cavities are also common in young children and teenagers because their teeth are still developing. Older adults are also at a higher risk, as normal wear and tear makes teeth more vulnerable to decay.
There are millions of bacteria in your mouth which thrive on sugary foods and drinks. When teeth are left unbrushed, bacteria can feed on leftover sugar, producing acid. The acid and bacteria then combine to form plaque.
Plaque sticks to teeth and the acids within begin to wear away at the outer surface of teeth, called enamel. Over time, small openings begin to appear in the enamel, and these openings are the first stage of a cavity.
The longer plaque and bacteria are left on teeth, the larger the cavity can become. Decay can reach the deeper layers of the tooth, causing irritation, sensitivity, and pain. Extensive decay can eventually cause tooth loss.
How can I avoid getting a cavity?
Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly is a great way to prevent cavities, especially if you use fluoride toothpaste. Routine visits to the dentist for cleanings and exams can also help prevent tooth decay.
Some foods and beverages are healthier for your teeth than others. Avoid sugary foods high in carbohydrates and focus on fresh, whole fruits and vegetables.
So how do I know if I have a cavity?
Your dentist can usually detect areas of decay during a routine exam. They will examine your teeth and probe the surfaces with a dental instrument to look for soft spots. An x-ray can reveal cavities below the surface.
Attending regular, biannual dental exams can help your dentist identify signs of tooth decay early. Small cavities are easier to treat. When you leave a cavity untreated, it can continue to grow and cause more extensive damage to your smile.
So I have a cavity. Now what?
In the early stages of a cavity, your dentist may be able to repair damaged tooth enamel and reverse the effects of erosion. Professional-strength fluoride treatments contain higher concentrations of fluoride and can encourage your tooth to remineralize.
The most common treatment for a dental cavity is a filling. Your dentist will remove the damaged tissue and renew the strength of your tooth with a dental filling, made from composite resin, porcelain, or amalgam.
In some cases, your dentist may need to place a dental crown to restore a tooth affected by a large cavity. During this treatment, they will remove decayed tissue and shape your tooth to accommodate the crown.
If decay has spread to the internal layers of your tooth, your dentist may need to perform root canal therapy to remove infected tissue and protect your tooth from otherwise necessary extraction.
Are there other ways to protect my smile?
Dr Perry is a great dentist. Very kind and informative. I feel like he is personally invested in my health. He always takes the time to sit and discuss any issues I'm having - I never feel like they're rushing me out.