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What Do Cavities Actually Look Like?

If you visit the dentist for a routine checkup and examination, then it can be disappointing to hear that you need a filling. Most often, the reason a filling is recommended is because the dentist finds one or more cavities on your teeth. You might be wondering: what do cavities look like, and how can the dentist tell that you need a treatment?

You can lean on the experience of a trusted dentist to guide you in the treatments necessary to help you maintain a healthy smile. At the same time, each patient should be proactive about their own education so they can make the right decisions regarding their upcoming treatment plans.

Can You See Your Cavities in the Mirror?

Look in the bathroom mirror: open your mouth and take a closer look at your teeth. It might be helpful to use a flashlight so you can see the teeth more clearly. Do you see any signs of discoloration or changes in a tooth? Then it could be a sign of a cavity.

But simply researching what do cavities look like isn’t enough to diagnose the issue. There are other common cavity signs that show up in the early stages and as the tooth decay progresses.

The truth is that most patients don’t have the experience to diagnose a cavity properly. So, it’s important to visit the dentist for regular checkups since you can’t detect cavities by yourself. Dentists have different methods for detecting cavities in the earliest stages. Catching these signs in the beginning stages is the best approach because early intervention helps to minimize the severity of treatment needed in the future.

Signs of Dental Cavities

How do cavities look like? This question is broad, especially because the appearance of the cavity can change over time. Not only do you need to know what an advanced cavity looks like, but it’s also important to learn what do early cavities look like. What does a cavity look like when it first starts?

Here are some of the most common signs you may have a dental cavity:

  • Tooth Pain: Do you notice a throbbing or aching sensation in your mouth? Whether the pain is minimal, moderate, or severe, it could be an indication of tooth decay. When pain is starting to develop, you might notice yourself pushing your tongue in that area of the mouth. The pain can intensify when you eat foods that are cold, hot, or sweet.
  • Tooth Sensitivity: Even if you don’t have a toothache, pay attention if you find that one of your teeth is more sensitive to temperature changes. For example, if you wince when drinking a cold drink and notice a pang in a specific part of your mouth, it could be sensitivity from a tooth with a cavity.
  • Tooth Discoloration: When asking the question “what do cavities actually look like,” the most common visible sign is a discolored spot on the tooth. Often, tooth cavities are dark in color (black, grey, or brown), but it could also be a white spot. Pay attention if you see any portion that doesn’t match the rest of the tooth.
  • Hole in the Tooth: As the tooth decay progresses, it can result in a hole on the tooth. You might be able to feel a change in the texture of the tooth’s surface with a hole or crack that is present. If you are wondering how do cavities look, it’s best to look for both discoloration and the presence of a hole (although your cavity may not have both of these symptoms).
  • Gum Irritation: When the gums are bleeding or swelling, it could be an indication of either gum disease, a tooth cavity, or both. Pay attention to the symptoms and talk to your dentist as soon as possible to determine the underlying cause of your gum irritation.
  • Pus: When the tooth decay and infection have progressed, it can form an abscess under the surface of the gums. You might notice pus coming from the tender area of your mouth. Often, if an abscess is present, other symptoms will coincide with the pus, such as extreme pain, swollen glands, and even a fever.

If you notice any of these symptoms, then it’s best to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Early treatments are essential to protect your tooth and avoid further complications.

Can Cavities Go Away on Their Own?

You can’t reverse a cavity, which means that the cavity won’t go away without treatment. The only time when there is a possibility of cavity reversal is if the decay is only in the enamel and not deeper in the tooth. Sometimes, the use of fluoride and minerals can re-harden the enamel and stop the progression of the cavity.

Also, keep in mind that certain dental habits can help to stop the progress of tooth decay. These habits are important to not only slow the progress of cavities that are already present, but also prevent the development of cavities in the future. The best solution is to strengthen your teeth and harden the enamel so that your teeth improve before cavities develop in the first place.

How Long Can You Leave a Cavity Untreated?

Talk to any dental professional and they will all agree: don’t leave a cavity untreated. The longer you wait for a filling, the higher the risk that the tooth decay will spread and could result in a need for more intensive treatments in the future.

Remember that cavities don’t go away on their own. So, if you suspect a cavity, then it’s important to see a dentist as soon as possible. Delaying the treatment often leads to complications, resulting in more expensive and complicated procedures.

In severe situations, untreated cavities can cause serious and permanent damage to the tooth. For example, it’s possible that tooth loss might occur because the damage is irreparable.

What Can Be Mistaken for a Cavity?

Keep in mind that there are other dental conditions that could potentially be mistaken for a cavity. So professional diagnosis is critical to determine if you actually have a cavity, or if it is something else. How do you know if a cavity is real? Only your dentist can tell you.

Tooth stains are sometimes mistaken for a cavity. You might notice discoloration, but the stain doesn’t have pain, sensitivity, or a hole in the affected area. This is a good example that you can’t only ask what do cavities look like on teeth. It’s essential to look at other signs of a cavity as well because a tooth stain and a cavity can look similar.

Additionally, tooth sensitivity is another thing that can mimic a cavity. You might notice that your tooth feels uncomfortable when you are eating something hot or cold, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a cavity every time tooth sensitivity is present.

Ask a Dentist: What Do Cavities Look Like

If you have any questions about your teeth, then the best thing that you can do is talk to a dentist right away. During your appointment, you can have a thorough checkup and learn more about your unique dental concerns that need to be treated.

When you need a filling or any other type of restorative dentistry, then myDental is here to help. We offer quality, safe dental services for people of all ages. Our professional team invites you to schedule an examination and checkup at one of our convenient locations.