How Do I Know if I Have a Cavity?

Cavities are one of the first things we learn to fight against when caring for our teeth, and we hear about them all the time. Brushing and flossing twice a day every day is the best way to fight off plaque and debris that cause oral health issues like gum disease and cavities. However, if we’re being honest, we don’t always do that when life gets busy. Surveys conducted by the American Dental Association have shown that less than fifty percent of adults in the U.S. floss daily.

Strong oral health is important no matter how old you are. In fact, about 92% of adults have had cavities filled, while close to 26% of adults have untreated cavities. As people age, their risk for an oral infection increases. The older teeth get, the more the protective enamel wears away, and the easier it gets for cavities to develop. At Boger Dental, we believe that our patient’s oral hygiene at home is essential. Especially when paired with their recommended teeth cleaning at our office at least twice a year. 

Cavities happen to us all. Let’s take a look at this common dental issue and how to know if you have a cavity.

What is a cavity?

To put it in simple terms, a cavity is a soft spot on your tooth. The most common place for cavities to occur is between your teeth. This happens to be the exact area you clean when flossing. Cavities form when bacteria inside the mouth produce acids that erode the tooth’s hard enamel surface. Over time, cavities can extend further into the softer layers of the tooth, causing pain, swelling, infection, or abscess in the tooth and gums, and even loss of part or all of the tooth. 

All of this can happen if you don’t seek treatment. Some patients suffering from untreated cavities experience problems eating and dietary changes.  In extreme cases, an oral infection can spread to the bloodstream. This infection, called septicemia, can be potentially life-threatening without prompt and aggressive antibiotic treatment.

What are the risk factors?

There may be some factors that may increase the risk of cavities, such as:

  • Incorrect or irregular brushing or flossing
  • Frequent snacking or sipping on high sugar or acidic beverages
  • Eating foods that cling to the teeth like gummy snacks and hard candies
  • Not having enough fluoride.  You may need more than is possibly available in your water
  • Medication that causes a dry mouth, since saliva helps neutralize and wash away harmful acids
  • Not visiting the dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleanings

Children have an increased risk of cavities due to their lack of experience with brushing their teeth efficiently on their own. That combined with their propensity to consume more sugary foods or snacking throughout the day can be a huge risk factor.  In comparison, factors that increase an adult’s risk for tooth decay and cavities include having existing dental fillings that may crack or receding gums, exposing the tooth root to plaque buildup, and eventually decay.

Some people find it more challenging to maintain their oral hygiene and access professional care. The elderly population, some racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and children from low-income families are among those who most often do not have access to appropriate dental care and have an increased risk of tooth decay and cavities. Other people with chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis, or heart disease are at a higher risk for oral health issues.

How Do I Know if I Have a Cavity?

How do I know if I have a cavity?

The signs and symptoms of tooth decay depend on factors like the location, the extent of the pain, and the number of teeth affected. Small, surface cavities may not cause any symptoms to begin with, but as the cavity worsens, you may experience the following:

  • White spots on the surface of the tooth indicate early tooth decay
  • Brown or black spots on the surface of the tooth suggest developing tooth decay
  • Visible holes or dents in the tooth enamel
  • Sensitivity or toothache in a pronounced area of a tooth
  • Generalized toothache or jaw pain
  • Pain when eating or drinking, especially hot, cold, sugary, or sour items
  • Pain when biting down or chewing food

Not all toothaches are the same. If you are concerned you may have a cavity, get in touch with a qualified dentist at Boger Dental. We will look for signs of tooth decay during your oral exam and use high-quality, low radiation x-ray images to see between teeth and behind any existing fillings. 

How do you treat a cavity?

Expert dentists at Boger Dental use modern techniques and advanced technology to make your dental experience painless, efficient, and affordable. 

Most cavities will only require a thorough cleaning of the space, removing decaying tooth structure, and filling in with a tooth-colored composite material. For tooth decay that is deeper or where healthy tooth structure is minimal, our dentists may utilize a dental crown. The cavity is still filled with packing material, but the whole tooth is covered with a tooth-colored porcelain cap or crown

If the decay reaches the nerve or pulp of the tooth, to the point that it can not be repaired with just a filling or crown, you may need a root canal. This consists of removing the dead or damaged nerve, blood vessels, and tissue along with the decayed portions of the tooth. This root space will be filled in with a sealing material and will then require a crown to protect the tooth.

How Do I Know if I Have a Cavity?

Give your teeth the best at Boger Dental

Our office wants to transform your smile, and that requires the right orthodontist to help you out. No matter your age or where you are in your orthodontic journey, we want to guide you to a more confident smile every step of the way. Our expert lineup includes Dr. Boger, along with Dr. Madden, Dr. Scherweit, Dr. Betterman, Dr. Groth and Dr. Trapp. Each with years of dental education and experience under their belts!

To learn more about how to keep your smile healthy and how our team of experts can help you, schedule an initial consultation today. We look forward to helping you along your dental journey!