Cavities can be hard to see when they’re first starting, but they can cause extensive damage to your teeth. If you go to the dentist and you dread hearing that you have a cavity, you’ve probably wondered what a cavity feels like, signs of a cavity, and how to get rid of cavities. Let’s take a closer look at these pesky dental problems.
Signs of a Cavity
A cavity happens when certain bacteria create a small hole in a tooth. These bacteria feed on the sugars and starches leftover from food, and create acids as they consume these substances. These acids tend to collect in small pockets and create holes. The bacteria move into these holes and make them deeper and larger, eating away more and more of the tooth. This sounds serious, and it certainly can be, but a cavity starts very small, so signs of a cavity can be easy to miss.
Keep in mind that early cavities are very difficult to spot with the naked eye. Dentists use x-rays to detect these small holes and fill them before they start to damage the inner structures of the tooth. However, if a cavity becomes more serious, you may be able to see signs of it.
Be on the lookout for these signs of a cavity:
- Small holes in the tooth
- Redness in the gums
- Brown, gray, yellow or black discoloration on the tooth
- Tooth is loose or feels weak
- Crack or chip in the tooth
What Does a Cavity Feel Like?
So, what does a cavity feel like? At its early stages, you may not feel a cavity at all. A cavity first starts by eating away at tooth enamel, which doesn’t touch nerve endings, so you won’t be able to feel it. Only the deeper structures within the tooth, like the tooth pulp and root canal, touch or contain nerve endings. If your tooth enamel touched nerve endings, chewing might be quite painful. When the cavity enters these deeper structures, which are essential for keeping the tooth healthy, serious damage can occur, and you will probably start to feel pain. If the damage is extensive, it can even cause tooth death or tooth infection.
Since you won’t feel a cavity when it’s eating away at the tooth enamel, it can be hard to know what a cavity feels like. However, once the problem has become more advanced, a cavity may feel like:
- Sharp pain when eating or drinking
- Dull pain throughout the day
- Sharp pain when touching the tooth
- Feeling that the tooth is loose or brittle
- Pain in the gums
How to Get Rid of Cavities
Now that you know the signs of a cavity and what a cavity feels like, you may be wondering how to get rid of cavities once they’ve started. Unfortunately, cavities can only be corrected by a dentist. There is no home remedy for getting rid of cavities once they’ve started. Your tooth enamel does not regenerate on its own, so it cannot heal the hole created by bacteria. The only way to get rid of cavities is to visit a dentist. The dentist will remove the damaged tissue and the bacteria, and fill the area to prevent more bacteria from entering.
How to Prevent Cavities From Starting
Though you cannot get rid of a cavity once it has formed, you can prevent cavities from starting. The best way to prevent cavities is to get rid of the bacteria that create cavities and neutralize the chemical reaction that causes acids to form.
Brushing your teeth is one way to prevent cavities from forming. Mouthwash can also be effective in destroying bacteria and neutralizing the chemical process. Flossing helps to eliminate the biofilm (sticky colonies of bacteria) that build up between teeth and near the gums, which brushing and mouthwash cannot reach. Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste will also help to remineralize damaged tooth enamel, so it has more strength to resist cavities. Avoiding especially sugary foods, such as candy and soda, can also help to reduce the sugars that cause bacteria to produce acids.
Being aware of the signs of a cavity, what a cavity feels like, and how to prevent a cavity can help to keep your teeth healthy long-term. Remember that early cavities are not detectable to the naked eye, so it is important to visit your dentist at least annually to detect and stop cavities.