How to Detect a Cavity

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A cavity, otherwise known as tooth decay, occurs when the structure of the enamel (outer covering of the tooth) is damaged. When the bacteria in the mouth reacts with sugar and starch from the food we eat, thin white film known as plaque form on our teeth. With poor oral hygiene, plaque will then be harbored by bacteria that form acids. As the plaque continue to stick, its acid will consume the enamel of your teeth until it can form a cavity or a hole around its surface. Tooth decay is considered as one of the most common dental problems that can equally affect children and adults. Early detection of cavities can help save your teeth.

  • Open your mouth in front of the mirror and check your teeth. One of the noticeable signs of cavity is a visible hole on the surface of your tooth. It can easily be spotted at the center of your molars or premolars (teeth from the side to the back row) or on the sides of your incisors.

  • Observe for any existing discolorations. If you ever notice a filmy white patch that is much whiter than your tooth, that is a sign of an existing plaque that is starting to consume the enamel. If you see darker colors of yellow or brown, that is an indication that the outer covering of your tooth is starting to break down. And if you see gray or black spots on your tooth, that is a clear sign that the enamel is already damaged, and will continue until you visit your dentist for treatment.

  • Notice how often you experience toothache. This is considered as the most common symptom of cavity or tooth decay. If the damage caused by bacterial acids reaches the inner part of your tooth, it will affect its root and nerve endings, resulting to a bad tooth pain that can be very discomforting.

  • Check your breath. Bad breath, or halitosis, will develop due to a decaying tooth or teeth in your mouth. Even if you brush you teeth, the odor will still be there several minutes later. Bad breath can also be accompanied with a foul taste in the mouth.

  • Take note of the sensitivity of your teeth. With cavities, your teeth are more sensitive than normal. You will feel pain whenever you sip hot coffee or drink cold water. Pain may also be present when you consume foods that are sweet. Brushing your teeth can be discomforting, as your decaying teeth are becoming very sensitive to pressure. You will even find it uncomfortable when you are biting and chewing foods.

  • See if there are any loose fillings. Healthy teeth are strong and will not easily break down. So if you observe that the surface of your tooth is starting to crumble, that is a clear sign of an existing cavity.

  • See your dentist immediately if there is a pus around your tooth. If a pus is observed on the bottom layer of your tooth, it is an obvious indication of infection. Don't ever try to touch or prick the pus. Let a professional handle it for you to avoid further complications.

Tips & Warnings

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste two to three times a day to avoid plaque formation. Flossing is also beneficial to eliminate plaque in between your teeth that toothbrush bristles can't reach.
  • If you don't have time to brush after eating, at least rinse your mouth with warm water.
  • Visit your dentist more often for regular dental checkups and cleaning.

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  • Photo Credit Creative Commons License, by: Karissa (Does Not Explain Everything), copyright: January 2007
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