Cavity Signs & Symptoms to Watch Out For

Woman appearing to have a headache due to Bruxism.

Warning Signs of A Cavity

Do you know the most common warning signs of a cavity? Do you also know that cavities are one of the most common oral health problems faced by our patients?

Cavity symptoms occur when plaque builds up around our teeth and essentially dissolves the protective enamel, creating holes in our teeth. The holes (or cavities) can cause noticeable physical symptoms like pain and tooth sensitivity.

At Country Dental, we have put together this list of early warning signs of a cavity.

The best way to spot and properly diagnose a cavity is through regular dental exams. Our dental hygienist will do a complete oral health check prior to cleaning your teeth and if necessary, do x-rays to uncover what can’t be seen with the eye alone.

If you think you or a family member may have a cavity and you have not seen a dentist in more than six months, we highly recommend booking an appointment with our dentists (or pediatric dentist) here at Country Dental.

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Tooth Sensitive to Cold

If you notice your tooth becoming more sensitive to cold drinks or food you may have a small cavity. Often, tooth sensitivity to cold is one of the early warning signs of a cavity and an indication that the tooth cavity should be fixed and treated with a dental filling.

Tooth Sensitive to Hot

If the tooth starts to become sensitive to hot drinks or hot foods it may be a sign that the cavity has progressed to the point where the tooth is starting to die. Talk to your dentist about immediate treatment. You may need a dental filling or possibly a root canal treatment.

Tooth Sensitive to Sweets

Not only might extreme temperatures cause tooth sensitivity but you may also notice a mild or sharp pain when you eat or drink something sweet. Tooth sensitivity to sweets is also one of the possible warning signs of a cavity and an indication you need to visit your dentist very soon.

Pain When Chewing

As a cavity progresses and nears the inner pulp of your tooth you may notice it becoming more and more painful to chew on that tooth. You may even start to chew on the other side of your mouth to avoid pain when eating.

Pits or Holes in Teeth

Other warning signs of a cavity to watch out for are small pits or holes on the surface of your teeth. Tooth decay can create holes or crevices on or between your teeth. You will notice that over time food will build up and get stuck in these crevices. When you try to floss to remove the built-up food your dental floss sometimes comes out frayed.

Teeth Starting to Chip or Crack

As tooth decay moves from the outer enamel and dentine layers to the inner tooth pulp the dying or dead pulp produces a pigment that will cause your teeth to look darker and increase your risk of tooth chipping. See our post on What to Do with A Broken Tooth.

Bad Breath

Your bad breath may have nothing to do with the garlic fries you ate last night. Bad breath is another possible warning sign of a cavity. As food gets stuck between your teeth and decays, it can smell putrid and cause you to have bad breath.

Blood When Brushing

You may notice blood on your toothbrush if the cavity is between two teeth. Gum tissue can grow into the new space created by the cavity and brushing can injure the gum and cause your gums to bleed.

Shifting of Teeth or New Gaps

As a cavity in back teeth worsens over time it can cause your teeth to shift. In extreme cases, you may notice gaps in your front teeth that never existed before.

Gum Swelling

Cavities that reach the inner pulp of the tooth will proceed to tissues around the bone. As decay reaches the bone it will cause pus and swollen or infected gums.

White Spots on Teeth

One of the very early warning signs of a cavity-forming is the presence of white spots appearing on the surface of your teeth. These white spots are caused by the loss of minerals on the surface of your teeth and should be treated right away before it’s too late. A dentist can help reverse the damage at this early stage.

Discolouration of Teeth

You may notice brown or black staining on the surface of your tooth as the cavity and decay progresses and starts to break down, soften, and dissolve your tooth’s structure. Often these dark spots can be hidden between teeth or in your back molars making it hard to self-diagnose a tooth cavity.

No Noticeable Symptoms

It is possible to have a small cavity without experiencing any of the symptoms listed above. Even without pain or sensitivity, a cavity can worsen. Your best protection against cavities is to have regular dental check-ups. During your appointment, your dentist will look for cavities by looking for soft spots in your teeth and by taking an X-ray.

Who Can Get A Cavity?

No one is exempt from getting cavities – cavities can occur in infants, young children, teenagers, and all adults (even the elderly). Early childhood tooth decay is not uncommon since milk, juices and even baby formula contain sugars.

Cavities can also occur throughout the mouth including:

  • Cavities in between teeth
  • Cavities in back teeth
  • Cavities in the front teeth
  • Cavities in wisdom teeth or incisors
  • Cavities under fillings, crowns, and braces (see our page on wisdom teeth extractions)

It is very important to be aware of the early warning signs of a cavity. When spotted early, the cavity can be treated with a fairly simply dental filling. If left untreated, the tooth cavity will destroy the enamel on your teeth and eventually reach the soft “root” of your tooth. At this stage, it can cause excruciating pain and may require a root canal treatment.

Early childhood tooth decay is preventable. See our post on What Causes Cavities.

About Country Dental

Along with professional orthodontists and denturists, Country Dental also has a Pediatric Dentist at each of our 3 dental office locations in Toronto, Cambridge, and Fergus! We offer 24-hour emergency dental services and we are open every day of the week.

Monitoring your children’s oral health for cavities and proper care is important to a long-lasting, beautiful smile! If you are experiencing any of the warning signs of a cavity listed above, please call our Ontario dentist offices in the clinic nearest you to book your next dental appointment.

Toronto:           416-335-7377

Cambridge:      519-620-7474

Fergus:              519-787-7878


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