Dan's Dentistry Blog

« Back to Home

Do You Know the Early Warning Signs of a Dental Cavity?

Posted on

A cavity doesn't magically appear overnight, but you might not be aware of its existence until your dentist points it out during a checkup. The more opportunity a cavity has to develop, the deeper the decay can spread into the tooth—meaning a more extensive dental restoration will be needed. But unless you happen to see it in the mirror, how are you supposed to know when you've got a cavity developing on a tooth?

Visible Cavities

Some cavities are easy to spot if you take the time to look for them. Visible cavities are generally on the outward-facing side of anterior teeth (those towards the front of your mouth), and these are corona cavities—meaning they've formed on the tooth's crown. But what does a cavity look like?

Incipient Cavities

You probably know what a cavity looks like in its later stage, with its telltale decay forming a dark spot on the tooth. Cavities don't start off this colour though. A small spot on your tooth's white (or off-white) dental enamel will begin to discolour. It often becomes yellow, then brown and then darkens. While it's shallow and limited to the upper layer of your dental enamel, it's known as an incipient cavity.

Remineralising the Tooth

Any suspected incipient cavities should be checked out by your dentist without much delay. Because the decay hasn't worked its way into the tooth just yet, you might not need a dental filling. Such a small patch of surface damage can be halted and reversed by remineralising the tooth, so your dentist might perform a series of intensive fluoride treatments to achieve this goal. Now, what about those cavities that might be deeper, and not so easy to spot? A toothache is the most common sign, but before a tooth's discomfort becomes constant, there are other warning signs.

Physical Sensations

A decayed tooth may become sensitive to hot or cold foods and drinks. The tooth's nerve has become exposed, meaning particularly hot or cold foods or drinks will trigger discomfort—which will worsen as the decay deepens. You can also easily irritate the tooth's nerve when biting down, and this can create a short, sharp jolt of pain. Although you might not be able to see any cavity on the tooth, you should still look at it in the mirror, if you can. The gums directly below the teeth may be discoloured, or even swollen. 

Cavities aren't especially complicated to fix, but remember that the tooth is actively decaying, and without treatment will eventually need a dental crown, root canal or even extraction. Please make sure any potential warning signs of a cavity are investigated. 

For more info, contact a local dentist