Cavities form when the bacteria that naturally grow in your mouth start to eat your tooth enamel. The bacteria accomplish this task by ingesting some of the sugars that you eat, and these organisms metabolise the sugar into acid. The acid then begins to break down your tooth enamel and dissolves it until the bacteria reach the dentin, nerves and blood vessels within the tooth.
Even if you have experienced cavities or dental caries in the past, you may not notice when one starts to develop in your mouth. You might not see any evidence of cavities until you visit your dentist. You might also attribute some cavity signs to other causes, like food discolouration or bruxism.
Read below to learn how to recognise cavities so you can catch them and remedy them before they do too much damage to your teeth.
1. Discoloured Spots or Patches
As cavities delve deeper and deeper into your teeth, they create a hole, and sometimes that hole exists under the topmost dentin layer. In that situation, you do not see a hole so much as a discoloured patch that can appear black, grey, brown or even extra yellowed. You should not see any concentrated colour spots on your teeth anywhere. Even an extra-white patch could signal a cavity.
2. Sensitivity in the Enamel and Gums
You might assume, when you have a serious cavity, that you will notice pain before any other sensation. In some cases, you would be right. However, many people notice sensitivity long before they notice pain. Sensitivity occurs because the bacteria have removed some of the protective enamel and dentin layers, exposing the sensitive nerves underneath. Even a tiny bit of nerve exposure can lead to sensitivity.
Sensitivity feels like a shocking or tingling sensation, and it feels worse when you eat cold, host, sweet or acidic foods. Even hot or cold air could cause a reaction.
3. Persistently Bad Breath
Bad breath can occur because you ate something especially fragrant. It can also occur because of a large number of metabolising bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria consume leftover food, and the by-product of this reaction creates a bad smell that will not go away by itself, no matter how many times you brush your teeth. You will have to see your dentist and resolve the cavity before you can have fresh breath again.
4. Relentless Toothaches
When you experience tooth pain, you might dismiss it and assume you bit something too hard. You may also assume that you clenched your jaw while you slept. However, if that pain persists all day or even for several days, then you probably have a cavity. You may even have a cavity in its advanced stages because pain does not usually manifest before the bacteria reach beneath the enamel.
5. Hollows or Holes in Your Tooth Enamel
When you notice craters, hollows or even large holes in your tooth enamel, then you need to book treatment with your dental care provider as soon as possible. Holes indicate that your cavity has reached advanced stages. The hole could turn into an abscess, which means more pain and more expensive treatment. Act quickly to save your tooth or teeth.
The average person cannot take care of a cavity on his or her own. He or she must seek a dentist's help to overcome the bacteria and fill in the gaps the cavity left behind. So, if you notice any of the signs above in your mouth or your children's mouths, schedule an appointment with your dentist right away. The sooner your dentist remedies the cavity, the healthier your mouth will be.