How will I know if I have a cavity?

Decay can manifest itself in different ways depending on the individual. Some people have sensitivity to sweets and salty foods, others have no symptoms at all. The best way to know if you have a cavity is to see a dentist and have x-rays taken.
The best way to find out if you have cavities is by visiting your dentist, as he/she will conduct oral examinations. Many cavities are not easily visible and people often don't know they have them.
You should see a dentist if you suspect that you have a cavity in your tooth. Only a dentist is properly trained to diagnose and treat a cavity. Possible warning signs for a cavity could be: pain in a tooth, discoloration of a tooth, and a hole or broken area of a tooth.
Peggy Rosen
Dentist
To find out if you have cavity you need to see the dentist for an oral examination. The dentist can identify a cavity through the use of different tools:
  • Visual examination tools: dental (mouth) mirrors - provide a way for the dentist to see all areas in the mouth; dental explorer -- the tool use to find small cavities.
  • Laser
  • X-rays -- find hidden cavities
  • Intraoral camera
RealAge
Administration
Cavities are holes in the teeth caused by tooth decay, but you may not know you have any cavities when they are in their early stages. You may however, have a cavity with advanced tooth decay if you are experiencing a persistent toothache made worse by drinking hot or cold liquids or eating cold foods. A dentist can pinpoint cavities during a regular dental exam or by using x-rays for those cavities not yet visible to the eye.
Discovery Health
Administration
Surprisingly, the large majority of cavities are completely painless. The outer enamel of the tooth, after all, has no nerves.

Only when a cavity enters the underlying dentin will the cavity begin to feel sensitive. When you have a cavity, the most common symptom is an increased sensation to sweet and/or cold foods and beverages.

Patients can be taken off-guard when they find out they have a few cavities even though they don't have any symptoms. But it is much better to treat a small cavity than to wait until symptoms (like pain) appear. By that time the cavity may have spread and infected the dental pulp. Then, you might need a root canal procedure or even an extraction to eliminate the infection. Regular dental examinations (twice a year or more) will greatly reduce the likelihood that a cavity will spread, causing pain and infecting the pulp.

Cavities are discovered in several ways. The most common are clinical and x-ray exams. During a clinical exam, the dentist uses a hand-held explorer to probe the tooth surface for cavities. If it "catches," the explorer has found a weak, acid damaged section of the tooth, a cavity. Dentists can also find cavities just by looking. Discolored (usually brown or black) teeth can indicate a dental cavity. X-rays, especially check-up or bitewing x-rays, are useful in finding cavities wedged between teeth, or under the gum-line. "Hidden" cavities like these are difficult or impossible to find visually or with the explorer. Sometimes, none of these methods are adequate. In that case, a dentist must use a special disclosing solution to find a suspicious area on a tooth.

Continue Learning about Cavities

Cavities

Cavities are tiny holes in your teeth that have developed from decay. Left untreated, cavities will get larger, and can cause toothache and possible loss of teeth. Anybody can get a cavity, but you put yourself at greater risk if ...

you don't brush regularly, or frequently consume sweets or sugary drinks. Your dentist can help prevent cavities with fluoride treatments, and can find them by taking pictures (X-rays) of the teeth. Once found, the dentist may treat your cavity with a filling or if extensive, with a crown. If there has been an extensive infection, other treatments, including antibiotics or a root canal surgery may be indicated.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.