Wondering if that tooth pain or sensitivity you feel is a cavity? According to the Canadian Health Measures Survey, a whopping 96 percent of Canadian adults have had a cavity, so it's a pretty common problem. If you're one of the lucky few who has never experienced tooth decay, you're probably curious about what a cavity feels like. The answer depends on the stage of decay. Read on to learn what cavities feel like and what you should do if you start to feel cavity pain.
How to Tell If You Have a Cavity
Cavities, also known as dental caries, form when the bacteria in plaque feed off the sugars from the foods you eat and release acid. When not cleaned off quickly enough, this acid is strong enough to wear away your tooth's enamel. Because there are no nerves in the enamel, you probably won't be able to feel the cavity forming in the early stages of tooth decay. Once the decay has progressed enough to reach the softer tissues inside the tooth where the dentine and nerves are, you might start to notice signs of a cavity.
- Tooth pain or sensitivity. The dentin contains microscopic tubules filled with tiny nerve endings. When this area is exposed, your teeth can become especially sensitive to hot, cold, acidic, and sugary (sticky) foods and beverages. It also might cause a toothache or sharp pain when you bite down.
- Holes or pits in your teeth. When the enamel wears away, you may feel a rough patch on your tooth with your tongue. These holes and pits can also catch food, and — depending on the size of the cavity — you may even be able to see the evidence of it in your mouth.
- Black, brown or white stains. Sometimes the food or drinks you consume can cause surface stains on your tooth; however, cavities can also appear as white, brown or black spots on your teeth. According to the Ontario Dental Hygienists' Association, early signs of decay include chalky white spots, that are reversible if treated. Over time and without treatment, the cavity will begin to look like a brown or black spot.