Signs of a Cavity

dentist pointing out signs of a cavity on dental x-rayCavities, or tooth decay, is a fairly common dental ailment, particularly in children or young adults. Even though most of our patients are familiar with what cavities are, we find that many are still surprised when we tell them they have a cavity! That’s because many cavities, especially early on, do not cause tooth pain & may not be visible to the untrained eye. So we’ve provided the following basic information about the signs of cavities so that you’ll be better informed in the hopefully unlikely event that we tell you you’ve got a cavity.

White Spots

White spots may appear on your teeth as a sign of early decay. These white spots are a sign of where minerals have been lost from the surface of your teeth. Luckily, when these white spots appear, it’s not too late. At this point, the development of a cavity can be stopped or reversed. Your tooth enamel can repair the damage naturally using minerals such a fluoride, found in saliva, fluoride toothpaste, & other sources such as fluoridated drinking water. These things can also help prevent decay in the first place by making your teeth stronger.

Brown Spots

Light or dark brown spots on your teeth are a sign of a more progressed cavity. These spots are where your tooth’s structure has started to soften & dissolve. You are most likely to see these spots on front teeth or the tops of molars. However, they can also exist between your teeth without being visible. That’s why it’s important to visit the dentist for cleanings & checkups. The dentist has techniques & technology for detecting cavities that are not easily visible otherwise.

Tooth Pain or Sensitivity

First of all, we should note that many cavities do not cause a toothache! You can have no pain or sensitivity at all & still have a cavity that is getting bad. However, if you do experience pain or sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet foods, this is a big sign that you may have a cavity.

Always call us right away if you have a toothache! The sooner we see you the sooner you’ll be out of pain.

Dark Spots on Your X-Rays

Typically, we take x-rays of your teeth every 12 months (roughly once a year) to get a deeper understanding of the health of your teeth. While dental x-rays have many uses for diagnosis & treatment of dental health issues, one of the primary purposes of getting x-rays regularly is to give the dentist an opportunity to check for cavities between your teeth (which dentists call inter-proximal caries) which might not be detectable otherwise. These cavities between your teeth show up as dark spots that the dentist is trained to identify.

Treatment for Cavities

Treatments for cavities vary depending on the severity & location of the cavity, & your individual dental health. Most of the time, a cavity that is caught early enough just results in a filling. In more serious cases, you may need a crown (i.e. a cap) to restore a tooth that has been extensively damaged by decay. If caught early enough, some micro-cavities can even be reversed using re-mineralization treatments to strengthen your enamel. If you suspect you may have a cavity, please contact us for an appointment right away. No matter what, we’ll keep checking your smile for cavities at your regular check-up & cleaning.

 

Teeth Cleanings Are About More Than Clean Teeth!

teeth cleanings and your healthWhen most of a us thinking of a teeth cleaning appointment, we think of polishing & maybe a little scraping. But the truth is that teeth cleaning appointments are about so much more than clean, shiny teeth!

Most teeth cleaning appointments also include a quick examination by the dentist. That’s one of the reasons we call them check-ups: your teeth cleaning appointment is an opportunity for the hygienist & the dentist check up on your oral health.

The dentist will pop in at some point during your time with the dental hygienist & perform a quick examination. This exam looks for more than just cavities. The dentist & the hygienist will examine your gums for signs of gum disease & your entire mouth for other problems, such as early signs of oral cancer. This may involve a little poking & prodding with a small metal tool called an explorer & a dental mirror. They will also review your x-rays, which are often taken at the beginning of the appointment. The dentist will discuss any potential problems that they have spotted, introduce treatment options if necessary, & ask you if you have any concerns.

Your teeth cleaning appointment is also a great opportunity for educate yourself about your teeth. Even if all you need is to brush up (so to speak) on your toothbrushing & flossing techniques, your teeth cleaning is a great opportunity to ask questions. You can ask your dentist or hygienist for recommendations on which toothpaste to use, options for whitening your teeth, or any other topics of concern or curiosity. Regular dental care works best when the dentist, hygienist & the patient are all actively involved in the treatment process, so don’t be shy about getting informed!

It’s also extremely important to know that your dental health is part of your overall health. Just because you see one doctor for your teeth & another for your general health doesn’t mean these things aren’t related! Gum disease & tooth decay have been linked to other health problems like heart disease & low birthweight in babies. People with certain health problems like diabetes or cancer are more prone to dental problems than others. In addition to oral health related problems, your dentist & hygienist can spot signs in your mouth (such as dry mouth, bad breath or sores) that may indicate a problem in your general health.

We know not everyone looks forward to teeth cleanings, but going to your dentist frequently for a cleaning & checkup is the best way to prevent potentially painful & expensive dental problems in your future & keep tabs on your health in general. If we catch a problem early during your cleaning appointment, your treatment is likely to be more comfortable, less complicated, & less expensive.