Signs of a cavity, such as sensitivity in your teeth or even outright pain, indicate that it's time to get your teeth professionally checked. Learn which signs to watch out for and why maintaining regular dental visits and practicing preventive care is key for your health — and wallet!
Statistically, if you haven't already, you're likely going to have to deal with a cavity at some point. According to the National Health Portal of India, dental caries affect nearly 60% of the Indian population.
The National Oral Health Programme explains that cavities are permanently damaged areas in the hard surface of your teeth that develop into tiny openings or holes. Cavities, also called tooth decay or caries, are caused by a combination of factors, including bacteria in your mouth, frequent snacking, sipping sugary drinks and not cleaning your teeth well. They can also go undetected at first, as early-stage decay may not produce any symptoms.
Luckily, cavities are treatable, and catching one early is good for not only your health and comfort but for your pocketbook, too. If your dentist is able to detect and treat your cavity before it progresses too far, you can avoid more complicated and costly treatments.
According to the Healthy Mouth Healthy Body, tooth decay is the process that results in a cavity (dental caries). There are three types of cavity:
- Smooth surface cavities, which appear on the sides of your teeth
- Root cavities, which appear over the roots of your teeth, below the gum line
- Pit and Fissure cavities, which appear on the bumpy surface on the top of your tooth that is used for chewing.
The Indian Dental Association states that elderly with increased life expectancy and longer retention of teeth suffer from tooth caries (decay). The majority of people over the age of 50 years have tooth-root decay. In addition, there is also a high prevalence of cavities among children.
Though it's common for people to feel some amount of pain from a cavity, other visual and sensory factors can also help you determine if a cavity has begun to form. According to the National Oral Health Programme, symptoms of dental decay and abscess includes:
- Pain on chewing on that particular side
- Food lodgement on or in between the teeth
- Sensitivity on consuming hot/cold food
- Swelling, referred pain, severe discomfort and associated fever on leaving the decay untreated for a long time.
Even before you suspect that you have a cavity, you'll want to maintain regular dental visits every six months. The Indian Dental Association notes that dentists and periodontists are concerned about more than saving your teeth - they're looking at how oral health fits into your overall well- being.
If you do have a cavity, you cannot treat the condition on your own, and putting it off will only allow the decay to worsen. The earlier you see your dentist, the more likely it is that they can catch a cavity in an early stage, which may be easier and less costly to treat. Your dentist is your partner in oral care, so make an appointment with them as soon as possible for an assessment if you believe you have cavity symptoms.
The Mayo Clinic explains that to treat a cavity, your dentist will assess your mouth, pain level and possibly take X-rays. Early-stage cavities may even be fixed with a simple fluoride treatment. However, more invasive treatments may be necessary if the cavity has progressed. Your dentist may need to treat your cavity with a filling, crown or even a root canal or extraction if the decay has advanced.
Being proactive and catching a cavity early is the best way to stop the decay from worsening — and a timely appointment with your dentist can make all the difference.