Cavities can occur in a specific tooth or between two teeth and knowing the symptoms will help you remain vigilant. Here is a list of seven warning signs to help clue you in to the presence of a cavity between your teeth. These may not be the same for everyone. If you are worried you may have a cavity, you should contact your dentist.
What is a cavity?
Cavities are permanently damaged areas in the hard surface of your teeth that develop into tiny openings or holes typically caused by bacteria in your mouth, frequent snacking, sipping sugary drinks and not cleaning your teeth well.1 Cavities are easier to take care of when they are found early. That is why it is important to visit the dentist before the cavity becomes severe and/or painful.2
How can I prevent cavities?
The most common way to prevent cavities is to brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste. This will help ensure that you get rid of the bacteria that can harm your teeth and overall health. Fluoridated toothpaste is helpful because fluoride helps strengthen your teeth and fluoridated toothpaste can help remineralize your teeth.3 Remineralization is a process that helps maintain your teeth’s composition and keeps your defenses against bacteria strong.4
You can also lessen your risk of cavities by brushing in a circular pattern. This is lauded by dentists and oral hygiene experts as the most effective way of brushing teeth. In addition to brushing with the proper technique, you should brush immediately after a meal to help ensure that nothing from your meal is left on your teeth. It is also important that you brush your gums when you are brushing your teeth to help ward off harmful gum-related diseases.5
There are additional strategies to prevent cavities, like using fluoridated mouthwash in conjunction with your toothpaste. Flossing will help you remove excess food from in between your teeth so that you do not give remnants and bacteria the opportunity to cause decay.6 Watching your diet is also a way to help prevent tooth decay, since tooth decay can be caused by eating sweet and sugary snacks. Being proactive is another line of defense. Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examination.7
What are the symptoms of a cavity between your teeth?
Sensitivity to heat or cold
Heat or cold sensitivity is a common side effect of cavities because the cavity is wearing away at your enamel. As your tooth’s enamel grows weaker, more of the nerves underneath are exposed. If you bite into your dinner and experience a tinge of pain or feel pain lingering after a hot meal or drink, you may have a cavity.8
Tooth pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the dentist. This is different from tooth sensitivity. Rather than just feeling pain due to stimuli like hot food or a cold drink, your mouth may feel constant pain. This can range from being a mild toothache to being severe. No matter the level of pain, you should contact your dentist when experiencing tooth pain.
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is another common sign that you might have a cavity. Although some people can ignore mild tooth pain, bad breath is much harder to ignore and is a common reason people visit their dentist.9
Dark spots on your teeth are another common sign of a cavity. Dark spots typically occur before holes form within the tooth.10
Having a hole form in your teeth is usually a sign that your cavity is severe. This means that, although your cavity can still be fixed, it will often take more work than basic cavities. It is best to try to catch cavities before this level of decay.11
Much like the formation of holes, if pus is forming, this is a sign that your cavity has progressed and that you should seek out dental care immediately. Pus can indicate that an abscess has formed from your cavity.12
Chipping or breaking
Chipping or breaking can be caused by a variety of things, like eating hard candy. Both the cavity and the broken tooth will need to be fixed in order to prevent bacteria from getting in and leading to possible infection.13
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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. It is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.