How To Know If You Have A Cavity

dentist working on patient

Do I Have a Cavity?

Cavities are extremely common. According to CDC research, 90% of people who are 20 or older have had at least one cavity. More than half of all teenagers have cavities in their adult teeth, too. If left untreated, cavities can grow and spread to other teeth. Eventually, they can lead to the complete breakdown of individual teeth.

What is a Cavity?

A cavity is permanent damage to your tooth enamel – the hard, white outer layer of your tooth – often caused by poor brushing and flossing habits, POOR DIET and otherwise lackadaisical dental care. Cavities often form dark spots or tiny holes in your tooth that can be detected by a dentist.

Cavities can be treated easily through a routine, non painful procedure that fills the holes with a material called dental RESIN – a hardened, white substance that looks like tooth enamel. If a cavity gets deep enough, you might need a root canal to fix it. Root canals are more expensive and burdensome than a regular filling.

How to Know if You Have a Cavity

So, what does a cavity look like? There are several common warning signs that you might have a cavity, including:

  • Holes in your teeth
  • Dark spots on your teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweet foods
  • Toothaches, either constantly or when biting/chewing
  • Bad breath or a consistent bad taste in your mouth

One common misconception is that you will be able to feel a cavity or that it will cause you noticeable pain. While toothache is a common symptom, it is not necessarily a symptom for everyone who has cavities.

The best way to determine whether or not you have a cavity is through a routine visit to your dentist. Your dentist will be able to tell you if they detect any cavities during your twice-annual routine cleaning. If you think you might have a cavity, make an appointment to get it checked out at Loudoun Smile Center.

How to Prevent Cavities

If you want to avoid dealing with cavities in the first place, there are a number of steps you can take. Here are five easy changes you can make today.

  1. Schedule Regular Dental Checkups. Your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to remove any bacteria buildup on your teeth or gum line before it leads to cavities. They’ll also give you personalized instructions on how to better manage your dental health on a day-to-day basis.
  2. Brush Twice Daily and Floss Once a Day. Keep your teeth clean by practicing good brushing and flossing habits. Brush your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste and floss to remove food particles before a cavity develops. For bonus points, use an electric toothbrush for more efficient cleaning and rinse with mouthwash once daily.
  3. Watch Your Diet. Did you know that the quality of the food you eat impacts your oral health too? Foods and beverages that are high in sugar and acid cause more damage to your teeth. While there’s no truth to the myth that Coca-cola can dissolve a tooth overnight, repeated exposure to sugar and acid will increase your chances of developing cavities and will gradually erode your tooth enamel. Apples, carrots, celery, cheese, yogurt, nuts, and water are just some teeth-friendly consumables to include in your diet.
  4. Switch to Tap Water. The Virginia Department of Health closely monitors and manages the level of fluoride in tap water, making it better for your oral health than drinking mass-produced commercial water from water bottles. That’s because fluoride, in managed quantities, strengthens your tooth enamel against acids and erosion.
  5. Consider Invisalign Treatment. This may seem counterintuitive given that there are widespread fears that Invisalign can lead to cavities. In fact, the opposite is true. If you have teeth crowding, it can be very difficult to maintain the health of your teeth and gums. By enrolling in Invisalign treatment, you’ll be able to clean your mouth much easier, thereby reducing your odds of developing cavities.

How Often Should I Visit the Dentist for Check-Ups to Detect Cavities? 

Regular dental visits every six months allow the dentist to detect cavities and other oral health issues early on, preventing them from progressing and causing more significant problems. However, the frequency of dental visits may vary based on an individual's oral health needs. Some people with higher risk factors for cavities or other dental issues may need more frequent check-ups as advised by their dentist. It's essential to discuss your specific oral health needs with your dentist to determine the appropriate visitation schedule for you.

If I suspect I have a cavity, what should I do before my dental appointment?

If you suspect you have a cavity, there are a few steps you can take before your dental appointment to help address the issue:

  1. Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Continue to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily to maintain good oral hygiene. Proper dental care can help prevent further decay and keep the affected area clean.

  2. Use Fluoride Toothpaste: Choose a toothpaste with fluoride to strengthen your tooth enamel and protect against further decay.

  3. Avoid Sugary and Acidic Foods: Limit your consumption of sugary and acidic foods and drinks, as they can contribute to cavity formation and worsen the condition.

  4. Over-the-Counter Pain Relief: If you experience any discomfort or sensitivity related to the suspected cavity, you can use over-the-counter pain relief medication, such as ibuprofen, as directed.

  5. Avoid Self-Treatment: It's essential not to attempt to treat the cavity yourself or use home remedies. Only a professional dentist can properly diagnose and treat cavities effectively.

  6. Note Symptoms: Take note of any specific symptoms you are experiencing related to the suspected cavity, such as tooth sensitivity, pain, or visible changes in your tooth's appearance.

  7. Be Prepared to Share Information: When you visit your dentist, be prepared to share any symptoms you've noticed, your oral hygiene routine, and any changes in your diet that may be relevant.

  8. Don't Delay the Appointment: Don't put off your dental appointment if you suspect a cavity. Timely diagnosis and treatment can prevent the cavity from worsening and causing more significant dental issues.

Remember, only a professional dental examination can confirm the presence of a cavity and provide appropriate treatment. Contact your dentist to schedule an appointment as soon as possible to address your concerns and maintain good oral health. 

Need help with your dental care? Our team at Loudoun Smile Center is always here to answer questions and be your trusted resource for information on your dental health! Contact us online or call at (703) 337-3494 to learn more. 

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