In recent years, tooth decay and tooth loss have gradually been declining. This is likely because dental technologies continue to advance, and more people understand the importance of maintaining great dental health.
However, despite these improvements, data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that cavities are still a prevalent problem. Apparently, among adults aged 20 to 64, 91% had dental caries (cavities), and 27% of them had untreated tooth decay. Also, about one in five adults who are over the age of 65 had untreated tooth decay.
So how do you know if you have a cavity? How do you know when it’s time to seek treatment?
Can You Diagnose a Cavity on Your Own?
Simply put, a cavity is a hole in your tooth that results from decay. This may create a certain amount of pain when you eat, since the decay has eliminated the enamel, potentially leaving some nerves exposed.
However, that doesn’t mean a toothache is a guaranteed indicator of a cavity, nor does it mean that you’ll always be able to detect the hole in your tooth on your own. You can check them in your mirror, feel for them with your tongue, and never know that something is going on between your teeth.
There are some symptoms you can watch for, though. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common signs and symptoms of a cavity include:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Pain when you bite down
- Pain when drinking something sweet, hot, or cold
- Brown, black, or white staining on the tooth’s surface
- Spontaneous or unexplained pain
Still, there is really only one surefire way to know if you have a cavity or not.
Visiting Your Dentist
It’s very possible that a cavity can form between your teeth, and you’d never know it. It may not start to hurt until it has fully developed, and you may not notice any particular sensitivity because it’s in such a hard-to-reach place.
This is why it’s so important to have regular checkups.
When you come in for a cleaning, we can check every corner of your mouth and take dental x-rays to find the smallest signs of cavities. We will look for soft spots, slight discolorations, and many other signs that suggest a cavity is on the way.
Knowing the Risk Factors
Everyone is at risk of getting cavities. However, there are some definite risk factors that could contribute to the likelihood of experiencing them yourself.
These risk factors are important to know, because if any of them apply to you, you can probably begin to assume that a toothache is more than a toothache. It might really be time to get into the office as quick as possible.
Some of these situations may affect your risk of developing cavities:
- Insufficient at-home hygiene routines
- Insufficient fluoride
- Eating foods that stick to your teeth for a long time
- Feeding infants at bedtime can cause tooth decay on their small teeth
- Current wear on your teeth
- Dry mouth
Prevention and Correction
The best solution to cavities is to avoid them in the first place. Make sure you are keeping your appointments every six months and sticking to a strict at-home hygiene routine.
However, despite our best efforts, cavities can happen. They may cause some pain and, in the worst cases, lead to broken or otherwise damaged teeth. The sooner you make an appointment, the sooner we can correct the cavities and get you smiling again.