“I have a cavity? But I don’t feel any pain in that tooth!” This is one of the most common questions I encounter during a routine examination. According to the National Institute of Health, the most prevalent health condition after the common cold is tooth decay and many times, cavities present without symptoms. When this occurs, the cavity is at an early stage. If you sense pain with a cavity, it is a sign that the decay has worked its way closer to the pulp (or nerve) within the tooth. If left untreated, this could result in an infection followed by more extensive treatment such as root canal or removal of the tooth.
If you haven’t already had a cavity, you will likely develop at least one in your lifetime. So, how do you know if you have a cavity? Well, depending on the severity of your tooth decay, you may experience a variety of symptoms. Here are some common symptoms of tooth decay:
· Nothing (in the early stages)
· A toothache or spontaneous tooth pain
· Tooth sensitivity
· Pain (slight or severe) when eating something sweet, hot, or cold
· Staining (brown, black, or white) on the surface of your tooth
· Visible holes in your tooth. Those holes are cavities
· Pain when biting down
The best time to catch a cavity is in the early stages when there are few, if any, symptoms. This situation requires a less invasive procedure and the nerve of the tooth remains undamaged.
If you are symptomatic, we may have to formulate a more in-depth treatment plan. After the cavity is removed, a special material may be applied over the nerve to promote the tooth’s natural tissue in order to slightly regenerate and protect, or insulate, the nerve. If the decay is extensive, a more involved treatment may be necessary.
Keeping your twice yearly (or more) visits with us will ensure we catch cavities in time. It is important for us to take x-rays annually since it is the only way to view the condition between your teeth. Cavities between the teeth are the MOST FREQUENTLY diagnosed cavities.
The best way to reduce cavities is to brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, floss at least once a day, and minimize the amount of sugar in your diet. Since most cavities form between the teeth, I can’t emphasize flossing enough. Flossing is the one activity that can dramatically change your overall oral health.
These steps will help you to be proactive in preventing cavities. Even better, your teeth will thank you for it!