If you have a cavity, it can be difficult to detect. You may wonder, what does a cavity feel like? How do you know if you have one? It’s not easy to feel a cavity forming, especially at an early stage, but it can be possible in some cases. Let’s take a look at what a cavity feels like and how you might know if you have one.
What Does a Cavity Feel Like?
A cavity, also called a dental cary, is a small hole in the tooth. This is caused by bacteria, which feed on the starches and sugars leftover on the tooth’s surface from food. These bacteria form sticky plaque and produce acids that wear away tooth enamel. These acids can collect in pockets on teeth and form holes and decay.
Since tooth enamel is not a living structure on the tooth, you won’t feel bacteria eating away at tooth enamel. This means it can be difficult to feel a cavity forming. However, you may notice a few of the following signs, especially if the cavity and tooth decay become more advanced.
As bacteria dissolve tooth enamel, they may make their way deeper into the tooth’s structures. The bacteria may start to eat away at the dentin, the softer pulp inside the tooth. Or, the bacteria may attack the tooth root. In either of these cases, you may notice that your tooth is a bit loose. In this case, you should see your dentist as soon as possible, as the damage may be extensive at this point.
Though the enamel is not a living structure, the other parts of the tooth are alive. The pulp inside the tooth, the dentin, also contains blood vessels and nerves. If the bacteria have invaded the tooth’s pulp, they may also attack the nerves. This may cause a dull, constant pain, or a sharp, stabbing pain at unexpected times.
Sensitivity to Heat and Cold
The lower structures of your teeth which anchor your teeth to your gums are not protected by enamel. When the gums are damaged by decay, they can pull away from the teeth, exposing the sensitive tissue beneath. This can cause your teeth to be more sensitive to cold foods, like ice cream, and hot foods, like soup. If you feel this sensitivity in multiple places, it might be from gum damage. However, if you notice increased sensitivity around one tooth, it may be a sign of a cavity. Since bacteria attack enamel, they can expose the tooth’s nerves, so a cavity may cause your tooth to be very sensitive to hot and cold foods.
As bacteria attack a tooth, they may spread to the tooth’s inner structures, like the tooth pulp and tooth roots, but bacteria can also attack the gums. If this happens, you may feel persistent soreness around the tooth and gums. If this soreness is focused on one side of your mouth, especially if it’s focused around one tooth, it may be a sign of a cavity.
Visual Signs of a Cavity
A cavity feels like soreness, pain, temperature sensitivity, and looseness around a tooth. If you’re experiencing these feelings all over your mouth, there may be another issue. However, if you’re experiencing these feelings around one tooth or a few teeth, it may be a sign of a cavity. You might look for visual signs of a cavity if you notice these other symptoms.
The most obvious visual sign of a cavity is a discoloration; you may notice a dark yellow, brownish, or black spot on your teeth. This means that the tooth decay is somewhat advanced, and you should see a dentist right away. You might also notice redness or other discoloration around your gums, especially if bacteria have attacked the tooth root directly.
The best way to avoid cavities and tooth decay is to brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, consume fewer sugary foods and drinks, and visit your dentist at least once a year. Your dentist can detect cavities before they become serious, and treat them before the bacteria spreads to other parts of your teeth or other parts of your mouth. If you’re concerned about cavities and you think you may have one, make an appointment with a dentist today.