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Even if you’ve had a cavity before, you might not know how to tell when one appears in your mouth.  However, waiting till your next regularly scheduled cleaning to talk to your dentist about a possible cavity may do you more harm than good.  Below we share 5 tips to help you know when you might have a cavity.  After all, the sooner you catch and fix a cavity, the better.

Why is Catching a Cavity Early Important?

As a cavity develops it eats away at the tooth enamel until it reaches the softer dentin underneath. Then the bacteria that cause cavities eat the dentin until they reach the pulp, or the cluster of nerves and blood vessels at the center of your tooth. From there, the bacteria can spread to other places in your mouth. Luckily, you’ll probably see your dentist long before the cavity ever becomes that bad. But the fact remains that the longer you wait to treat a cavity, the more tooth tissue the bacteria consume.   Use the tips below to know when it might be time to call the office.

1. Tooth Pain-Whether You Bite Down or Not

As you might expect, a toothache is one solid sign of a growing cavity. This pain may manifest differently depending on the cavity’s stage. In the early stages, you may only notice pain when you bite down on something hard. As the cavity progresses, you could feel pain even when you bite something soft. Or, if your cavity develops far enough, you could have a constant toothache. You’ll know this pain signals a cavity and not simply soreness or random pain because the sensation persists. It won’t go away after a couple days. Persistent pain is your body’s warning about a serious problem, so don’t ignore it.

2. Tooth Sensitivity

In addition to pain-or perhaps before you start feeling pain at all-you often feel tooth sensitivity when you develop a cavity. This sensitivity manifests as an uncomfortable tingling or tickling in your teeth whenever you eat something hot,cold, sugary, or acidic. You may even feel sensitivity when you breathe in hot or cold air. Your teeth become sensitive because the bacteria make your tooth enamel thin, and that enamel protects the highly receptive nerves within. As that protective layer weakens, the nerves receive more powerful signals. You should talk to your dentist immediately if the sensitivity persists.

3. Gray, Brown, or Black Spots on Your Teeth

As mentioned above,a cavity eats its way into your tooth. As a result, it creates a hole-but that hole might not show up right away. Instead, you might see a gray, brown, or black spot instead. If you see a spot, then you have a legitimate bacteria problem worming its way into your enamel, so you should see a dentist as soon as possible.

4. Visible Holes in Your Teeth

When you can see the holes created by a cavity, you’ve passed the spot stage. At this point, you may need extensive fillings or even a root canal-especially if infection sets in and the hole turns into an abscess. Do not wait to treat this problem! Go see your preferred dental professional so he or she can clear the bacteria away and install a filling or a crown.

5. Halitosis and a Bad Taste in Your Mouth

The same bacteria that cause cavities also cause bad breath. And if enough bacteria have spread throughout your mouth to cause cavities,  you’ll have noticeable halitosis as well. You may also have halitosis so bad that you have a continually bad taste in your mouth. If you experience this problem, step up your dental hygiene game. Brush more often and use mouthwash-but talk to your dentist if halitosis continues.

How many of the above signs have you noticed in your mouth? If you suspect you have a cavity, call our office as soon as you can. The sooner you act, the less damage you’ll have to deal with, which means a less expensive treatment as well.