Do You Have a Cavity? Signs, Causes, Risk Factors, Treatment

Do You Have a Cavity? Signs, Causes, Risk Factors, Treatment

Mar 01, 2023

Do you feel mild to severe tooth pain, especially when consuming hot or cold items? Chances are you have tooth decay or cavities. Cavities refer to tiny holes or openings that form in a tooth.

They often form when acids and other factors permanently damage specific parts of your teeth, leaving behind holes or pits. Read on to learn how cavities form, their risk factors, treatment, and prevention.

How do cavities form?

Cavities form gradually over a certain period. Often, they result from acids released by oral bacteria. These bacteria release harmful wastes that erode your tooth enamel and permanently damage certain parts of the tooth, causing tiny holes or openings called cavities.

If left untreated, these holes or cavities get deeper and larger over time, leading to mild to severe tooth or oral pain, gum swellings, and tooth loss. Treating cavities early on can help prevent large damage and save your tooth.

What are the signs and symptoms of cavities?

Usually, cavities may not show any symptoms in the early stages, especially if the decay hasn’t passed the enamel. The enamel is the tooth’s hard outer surface that protects it from extreme temperature, trauma, and other external factors. Once the enamel is damaged and the internal parts are exposed, you will notice some symptoms.

Signs of cavities to watch out for include:

  • Tooth sensitivity to heat, cold, and sugar
  • Bleeding, sore, swelling, and red gums
  • Facial swelling
  • Persistent bad breath or taste in the mouth
  • Pain when biting down or eating
  • Brown, black, or white stains or sports on the tooth
  • Visible openings or holes in a tooth
  • Dental abscess

Seek dental treatment if you have these symptoms. Contact a dentist near you right away if you experience serious symptoms like:

  • Severe tooth or oral pain
  • Excessive gum bleeding or swelling
  • Fever
  • Dental abscess (pus from a tooth)

Why do cavities hurt?

Once decay has destroyed the enamel, the softer internal parts of the tooth, like the dentin and pulp, are exposed. The dentin consists of tiny tubules which allow stimuli to reach the tooth’s nerves. Exposure to external factors like cold, heat, and sugar thus leads to pain.

Besides causing pain, cavities expose the tooth to bacteria that infect the tooth’s nerves and blood vessels, causing more pain and inflammation. You may need a root canal to remove the infected tissues to stop the discomfort and remove the infection.

How to relieve tooth pain

You can use the following treatments to manage cavity pain:

  • Take over-the-counter pain medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  • Try over-the-counter numbing gels.
  • Use saltwater rinses to kill bacteria and manage pain.
  • Using clove oil can numb tooth pain.
  • Use cold or heat therapy on the cheek against the painful tooth.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste.
  • Maintain excellent oral hygiene.

How are cavities treated?

When you visit your dentist for cavities, they will likely take x-rays to determine the damage to your tooth. Then, they will establish a personalized treatment to treat your condition. Treatments can include:

Fluoride treatments:

At the beginning of a cavity (enamel erosion), the dentist can reverse it by remineralizing your tooth of its lost minerals. Fluoride helps strengthen your teeth and makes them more resistant to decay and fracture.

Dental fillings :

If decay has passed the enamel, the dentist cleans out the damaged parts of the tooth and then fills the areas with white filling materials.

Dental crowns :

If decay has significantly damaged a large part of your tooth, a dental crown can improve its strength and protect it from further damage.

Root canal therapy :

You may need a root canal if the tooth’s blood vessels, nerves, and other tissues are infected. The procedure removes the damaged tissues to eliminate pain and save the tooth.

Tooth extraction :

If the damage is too extensive and can’t be repaired with dental treatments, the tooth can be removed and replaced with an implant, bridge, and denture.

Factors that increase your risk of cavities

While anyone can get cavities, certain factors can increase your risk of developing one. These include:

  • Tooth location: The back teeth (molars and premolars) are more likely to develop cavities than other teeth.
  • Certain foods: Sticky, chewy, and foods high in acids, starches, and sugars like milk, honey, soda, sugar, cakes, hard candy, chips, dried fruit, and cookies can lead to tooth decay and cavities.
  • Frequently snacking increases plaque buildup and tooth erosion, increasing your risk of cavities.
  • Poor oral hygiene: Not brushing or flossing increases your risk of plaque build-up, cavities, and other oral problems.
  • Underlying health problems: Conditions like diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, heartburn, and eating disorders can encourage cavities and other oral problems.
  • Certain medications and dental restorations like antidepressants and dentures.
  • Family history of cavities

How to prevent cavities

Use the following tips to prevent cavities:

Schedule an appointment today

Do you have any symptoms of cavities? Contact Randolph Dental Group to speak with our best dentist in Randolph, MA.

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