Tooth Cavities: Symptoms, Fillings and Treatments for Pain

Posted on: February 17, 2020 | Blog

Tooth cavities, also called dental caries, are the most common reason patients come to the dentist. If you think you have a tooth cavity, it’s best to see your dentist as soon as possible. Letting this problem persist can cause other problems, and tooth cavities are easy to treat. In this blog post we’ll discuss symptoms of a tooth cavity, how you can avoid them, and how they are treated.

What Is a Tooth Cavity?

plaque on a tooth

A tooth cavity is a small hole in your tooth created by bacteria. Bacteria occur naturally on your teeth and, if they aren’t brushed away, they produce acids that will start to eat away tooth enamel. This process is generally known as tooth decay, and cavities are a consequence of it. If bacteria break through tooth enamel, they’ll start to eat away the tooth’s softer inner structures.

A tooth cavity can be relatively mild to start with, but it can quickly become a bigger problem if it isn’t addressed.Removing this plaque with brushing and dental visits can prevent cavities.

How Do I Know If I Have a Tooth Cavity?

Since nerves don’t extend to the tough outer structures of your teeth—that would make chewing fairly painful—you probably won’t notice a cavity at first. However, as the acid-producing bacteria continue to erode your tooth, they reach further into the living structures of the tooth, closer to the nerves in your tooth roots. When this happens, you’ll feel some sensitivity while chewing, or eating hot or cold foods or drinks. This is the first sign symptom of a tooth cavity.

tooth modelOther symptoms of tooth cavities are easier to notice. As bacteria erode the inner structures of the tooth, the tooth will become painful and sensitive, and start to die. You’ll notice more severe pain when you eat. You may also notice more visible symptoms, such as a yellow or brown discoloration around your tooth, or redness or puffiness in your gums.

If you notice any of the following symptoms of a tooth cavity, make an appointment with a dentist right away:

  • Pain chewing
  • Sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Redness or puffiness around the gums
  • Persistent bad breath

If you think you have a cavity and you live in the greater Las Vegas area, make an appointment at one of our offices today.

How to Stop Cavity Pain

If you have symptoms of a tooth cavity and you’re having pain or sensitivity, there are some remedies that can help. First, make an appointment with your dentist so the problem doesn’t get worse. While you’re making arrangements, try the following treatments for the pain:

  • Over the counter painkillers like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Ice packs on the affected area
  • Toothache gel, like Orajel™
  • Gently massage the affected area
  • Avoid especially cold or hot feeds
  • Use a toothpaste or rinse for sensitive teeth

How Are Tooth Cavities Treated?

A tooth cavity is a small hole—or, if it is left untreated, a large hole—in your tooth, so filling the hole is the best way to prevent bacteria from causing more damage. When a dentist fills a cavity, they clean the area first, eliminating the damaging bacteria and decay. Then, they fill the hole and seal it, preventing more bacteria from getting in. This is why dental cavity treatment is commonly called a “filling.” During this process, your dentist will give you a local anesthetic. This means the part of your mouth with the cavity will be numb, so you won’t feel any of this procedure.

The sealant and filling material can be made from many different materials, including metal, plastic, and resin. Metal fillings will appear shiny and silvery, while plastic and resin fillings will appear whitish and closer to the tooth’s actual color. Ask your dentist about the different types of fillings available and their cost to decide how to fill your tooth. Some people prefer all whitish fillings, while others don’t mind silver fillings in the back of their mouth, but prefer whitish fillings for visible teeth.

Preventative Care First

Though tooth cavities can be treated, the best method of avoiding cavities and painful symptoms of cavities is through preventative care. Bacteria in plaque and tartar, a sticky substance that develops on teeth, cause cavities, but this can be removed. You can keep plaque and tartar from developing by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. If you miss days or miss certain spots, your dentist can remove stuck-on plaque and tartar with special tools and techniques. Seeing your dentist every six months will ensure that these plaque and tartar deposits don’t turn into tooth cavities.

What Happens if a Tooth Cavity Isn’t Treated?

If a tooth cavity isn’t treated by a dentist, the bacteria will continue to grow and multiply inside your tooth. They’ll continue to erode your tooth’s structures, and may reach the tooth root. If a tooth root becomes damaged by bacteria, it can cause the tooth to die. This can be repaired by a root canal procedure, but it is best to treat the tooth cavity before it reaches this stage.

warning signs of periodontal disease
Get cavities treated as soon as possible to avoid painful problems.

If a tooth cavity isn’t treated, any of the following conditions can occur:

  • Tooth infection
  • Dead tooth
  • Discoloration
  • Damage to tooth root
  • Cracked teeth
  • Damage to nearby teeth as bacteria spread
  • Weakened teeth
  • Loose teeth

Since it’s difficult to notice tooth cavities when they first occur, and they can become very painful when they become severe, it is best to see your dentist every six months. Your dentist will also remove plaque and tartar that can cause tooth cavities.



BDG has 18 offices, located in Las Vegas, Henderson and Laughlin Nevada, as well as in Lake Havasu, Arizona. If you have symptoms of a tooth cavity, and you live in the greater Las Vegas area, make an appointment at one of our offices today.



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