Cavities get progressively worse over time, so catching one early is a great way to avoid potential problems in the future. You can’t detect cavities only by pain, though. By the time you feel pain from a cavity, it has already been developing in your tooth for a while.
To understand how to spot cavities early, it helps to know how the tooth decay process works. Our mouths are home to a wide variety of bacteria, some of which consume sugar and produce acid as a byproduct. That acid slowly wears away enamel, the tough, protective outer layer of your teeth. Once the enamel is sufficiently worn, the acid reaches the softer dentin layer below, eventually creating a cavity.
Your dentist in Calgary will check your teeth for cavities during every check-up, and will let you know if they spot any problems either visually or through x-ray. For those who don’t visit the dentist regularly (which isn’t recommended), it pays to learn what to look for regarding the health of your teeth. Spot cavities before they become a problem.
Search for Unusual Colors
It is very important to recognize that not all cavities progress following the same symptom pattern. Although there are some general guidelines to follow, your dentist is your best defense against tooth decay.
Discolouration is generally the first visible sign of a cavity, and it’s one you can spot before you feel any pain. As the acid from the tooth decay process wears away the protective enamel of your tooth, it will cause changes in colour in the affected area. The earliest sign of tooth decay will often be a white or off-white spot.
- If you find this discolouration at an early enough stage, the tooth decay process can often be reversed without the need for a dental filling.
- Light or dark brown spots are also indicators of tooth decay. Discoloration is easiest to spot on the front teeth because they are easily visible under normal levels of light.
- The colour may vary, so try to keep an eye out for any unusual colouring that stands out from the normal colour of your teeth. It’s especially important to check the teeth of your children for these signs.
Sensitivity to Hot, Cold, and Sugar
Once the tooth decay process eats through enamel, the vulnerable layers beneath are exposed. This makes your teeth more sensitive to heat, cold, and sugar. In fact, any small piece of food that gets caught in a cavity is capable of causing serious discomfort.
- When you have a cavity, hot and cold drinks are often especially painful. This type of sensitivity will typically be focused on one area, and be a sharp pain that can last for a few minutes or a few days.
- The same sugary foods that fuel tooth decay also cause tooth sensitivity once the decay process is underway.
- If you feel extreme sensitivity in a specific area of your tooth, make a mental note and check the area for signs of tooth decay. Your dentist in Calgary can help check those hard-to-see places.
The Presence of Pain
Sensitivity is unpleasant, but it’s not the only type of pain that cavities cause. When a cavity grows severe enough, it can cause pain even when you are not eating or drinking anything. Persistent pain in a specific area is a strong indicator that tooth decay is present.
- Once tooth decay reaches the nerves in your teeth, persistent pain becomes more likely. Pain will be intensified when a nerve is exposed, and your dentist in Calgary can only repair this type of damage.
- Constant pain can also be a sign of infection, a potentially serious complication that you should address with your dentist as soon as possible.
- Infections can cause great pain in your tooth, and can also lead to other health problems when left unchecked.
Get Regular Checkups
Some decay occurs in areas not visible except on an x ray. It’s possible for a cavity to not exhibit any symptoms of sensitivity or pain until the decay has become very deep.
Talk to your dentist. When you catch a cavity early, it’s much easier to repair, but your dentist has many tools available to fix even the most severe cavities. The best way to deal with cavities is prevention, though, so it’s important to learn how to stop tooth decay with good oral hygiene.
Consult the experienced team at Loreen Wong Dentistry in Calgary to learn more about cavities and all of our dental services, including sedation dentistry. We can work with Alberta insurance companies to get the care and results you’re looking for.