How to Tell If You Have a Cavity


You’ve heard about cavities. You know how dangerous they are. But still, you’re not quite sure how to recognize a cavity. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This guide will show you how to tell if you have a cavity, and what you can do about it.


What Is a Cavity?

A cavity is permanent damage to your tooth in the form of a hole. It’s also called tooth decay or caries. Cavities happen when the bacteria in your mouth eat away at your enamel. While cavities are irreversible, they’re easily treatable if you catch them in time.

What Types of Cavities Are There?

There are three main types of cavities: pit and fissure, smooth surface, and root cavities. They differ based on where your cavity is on the tooth. Knowing where cavities form can help make it easy for you to find them. Plus, you’ll know which areas of your teeth to give extra attention when cleaning.

Pit and Fissure Cavities 

These are the most common. This is when the cavity sits on the top of your tooth. Bacteria easily stick to the grooves and crevices of your back teeth. Luckily, these types of cavities are as easy to treat as it is to find them.

Smooth Surface Cavities

You can find smooth surface cavities on the side of your teeth. They’re less common because the bacteria can’t get a good hold there usually. Still, they do happen. 

Root cavities 

These Cavities are close to the root of your tooth. They mostly happen when gum disease eats away your gums, and your roots become exposed. Unfortunately, due to the lack of enamel, root cavities can quickly become severe. They’re painful and harder to treat.

How to Tell If You Have a Cavity

It’s not easy to tell if you have a cavity. You can’t really see the back of your teeth. Even with a mirror. But, you can always pay attention to how you feel. Your body will alarm you if there’s something wrong in your mouth.

The Symptoms of Cavities

These are the most common symptoms of cavities. If you notice any of these, it’s fair to assume that you have cavities.

  • Toothache, spontaneous pain or pain that occurs without any apparent cause
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something sweet, hot, or cold
  • Visible holes or pits in your teeth
  • Brown, black or white staining on any surface of a tooth
  • Pain when you bite down

If you sense any of these symptoms, you should see a dentist as soon as you can. They’ll be able to quickly identify the issue and see if you’ll need treatment.

What Causes Cavities?

The main cause of cavities is a buildup of bacteria. This often forms into plaque and tartar. But, ultimately, the cause of cavities is poor dental hygiene.

If you don’t brush your teeth and floss properly and regularly, the bacteria in your mouth flourishes. You need to take care of your dental hygiene to prevent cavities. 

Risk Factors of Cavities

You’re always at a risk of developing cavities. Especially if you don’t brush your teeth regularly. But, these risk factors give you a higher chance of cavities if you don’t pay attention.

  • Tooth location: You’re more likely to develop cavities in your back teeth. So, make sure to use extra care when you brush your molars and premolars.
  • Sugar: The bacteria that causes cavities loves sugar. Be careful how much sugar you eat, as it can easily lead to cavities. 
  • Food that sticks to your teeth: Apart from sugar, food that sticks in the crooks and crevices of your teeth brings the danger of cavities. Caramel, honey, chips. They’re delicious, but bad for your teeth.
  • Bedtime infant feeding: If you give your baby a bottle to fall asleep, you’re putting them at risk of developing cavities. The food gets stuck in their teeth overnight, and eats away at their teeth.
  • Lack of fluoride: There’s a reason most toothpaste contains fluoride. This chemical strengthens your enamel, and helps you fight against cavities naturally.
  • Dry mouth: After brushing, the best way to get rid of harmful bacteria is with your saliva. It naturally washes them away. But if you have a dry mouth, your body doesn’t produce enough saliva to help wash your teeth.
  • Heartburn: Acid reflux and heartburn make your stomach acid come to your mouth. This acid is very harmful to your enamel. Weaker enamel puts your cavities at greater risk.

The Dangers of Untreated Cavities

When you find a cavity, don’t ignore it. Untreated cavities can lead to far worse complications. When the cavity reaches nerve endings, it will be very painful. You won’t be able to eat. To make matters worse, you’ll feel the pain from the cavity constantly.

Cavities can also get infected. The infection can go beyond the tooth. It spread to the jaw and even up to your eye. If you leave your cavity untreated, you can lose a tooth. But, you can also develop potentially life-threatening conditions.

Save Money With Your Trip to the Dentist

Cavities can be a serious problem. Still, a lot of people hesitate to go to the dentist. That’s because dental procedures to fix cavities can be quite expensive. As a result, a lot of people risk their health to save their wallets.

Luckily, you don’t have to choose between money and your well-being. With Carefree Dental you can unlock big savings on most dental procedures at participating dentists.

It’s simple. Just sign up and get your Carefree Dental Card. Book an appointment with a participating provider. And when you show up for your appointment, show your card. You can save between 15%-50% off your bill per visit, in most instances. 

Ready to save BIG on your dental bills? Sign up to Carefree Dental today!


The Carefree Dental blog is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The text and pictures within the content are intended for information purposes only. Readers should consult with a licensed dentist or healthcare professional before seeking treatment.

The Carefree Dental Card is not insurance and Carefree Dental is not an insurance provider.

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