Suffer from toothache, pain in jaw, ear or face, bad breath or do you see dark discolorations, grooves or white spots? Then it could just be that you have a cavity in your tooth. I’m going to help you recognize a cavity.
How do you recognize cavities?
You usually only notice a cavity when it is too late. A cavity will only really hurt if it is at an advanced stage and the dental bone is affected. For example, your tooth hurts when drinking or eating hot, cold or sweet drinks, you suffer from a nagging pain in the jaw, sometimes at the same time as a pain in the ear or face. An increased sensitivity of the teeth, bad breath and a bad taste in the mouth can also indicate cavities (also known as caries). Sometimes you see discolorations, a groove or white spots on your tooth. In summary, symptoms of cavities are:
- A discoloration, a groove or white spots on your tooth.
- When eating or drinking hot, cold or sweet drinks and food, pain in the tooth.
- Nagging pains in the jaw, ear or face.
- Bad breath and / or bad taste in the mouth.
But those are actually mainly symptoms when the cavity really has become painful. You can recognize a cavity at an earlier stage.
What does a cavity look like?
What does a cavity look like visually? To answer that question, we have to consider very briefly what a cavity is. A cavity consists of a fairly small opening in the glaze and a much larger space under the surface. Bacteria in dental plaque excrete acid. The acid causes the tooth enamel to deteriorate. This process is also called the demineralization of the tooth surface. Because of the acid, part of your enamel disappears under the surface, while the surface remains undamaged. If this process continues, the enamel will weaken to such an extent that the enamel will crumble and a cavity will form. Then it’s too late and you really have a cavity. But luckily you can recognize a starting cavity early.
Recognize a cavity early?
Because of the space that is created beneath the surface of your enamel, a cavity always shines a bit whitish. You often recognize a starting cavity (caries) by a dull white, yellow or brown spot. The glaze dissolves and becomes porous in this place under the influence of the acids. The good news is that the glaze can still recover and therefore a cavity is prevented. Only when dental plaque is not brushed away for a long period of time or when you continuously expose your teeth to sweets and acids, the tooth enamel cannot recover. A cavity is then created.
Restore starting cavity
A small cavity in the tooth enamel sometimes closes automatically. The minerals that make up dental enamel and dental bone are constantly growing and breaking down. To prevent a starting cavity from becoming a cavity, it is important to brush your teeth thoroughly from now on. By thorough I mean twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste for 2 minutes. You preferably use a good electric toothbrush. Which is many times more effective than a manual toothbrush. Logical too, because the device makes the brushing movement for you, at a speed that you can never match.
By brushing properly and removing all plaque you give the body the chance to strengthen the enamel again. This is called remineralization. Saliva and the fluoride in toothpaste help with this. In addition to ensuring good oral hygiene, you also have to be careful with eating and drinking sugars and starches. These substances promote dental plaque. Try to limit the number of eating and drinking moments to a maximum of 7 times a day. Of course you can always drink water.
And what about black or dark dots and spots?
We also regularly receive questions about black or dark dots. That does not always have to say anything. Sometimes it can be a shock if you see a black cavity on your tooth while flossing in the mirror. A black cavity is only a cavity if it hurts. If the white or gray hints around it, there may be a starting cavity. However, not every pit or groove needs to be a real cavity. It may well be that this dark or black spot is no more than a discoloration. Read more about the causes of (white) spots on your teeth.
If in doubt, we recommend that you always contact your dentist. Caries is in fact never completely recognizable for the layman with 100% certainty. The cavity is created under the surface. The dentist will therefore confirm with an X-ray whether or not you have a cavity. If there is a gap, the dentist will fill this. If there is no question of a cavity then it will be examined where any complaints come from and you will be advised how cavities can be prevented.
How to prevent cavities?
Cavities are mainly caused by plaque (bacteria) on and between your teeth. The formation of dental plaque can be promoted by, among other things, eating and drinking carbohydrates (sugars). That is why it is important to brush your teeth every day. To properly remove plaque, it is especially important that you use a good brush, the right toothbrush, an electric toothbrush and toothpaste. Brush thoroughly with short movements. Or if you use an electric toothbrush by moving the toothbrush slowly over the teeth. Polish the inside and outside and the chewing surface.
How do cavities appear?
You can better place the above tip for good (electric) brushing if you know how cavities (caries) arise. Dental plaque develops on your teeth during the day. In plaque bacteria live that convert the carbohydrates in the plaque (from sugar, starch and other food). The bacteria excrete acids. If the plaque is not regularly removed from the teeth, the acids attack the tooth enamel. This may cause a cavity. In the beginning you hardly notice it, what happens under the surface. If much of the internal tooth enamel has disappeared, the surface will also collapse. This gives the bacteria access to the dental bone. This consists of organic material that can be converted by bacteria. At that moment you mainly feel pain when eating and drinking cold, warm, sweet or sour food. The tooth will rot on further infestation and eventually affect the dental nerve. At that moment you already feel continuous pain and the cavity must be filled by the dentist.
The causes of cavities are therefore:
- Dental plaque, bacteria live in the mouth that can attack the enamel;
- Poor and insufficient brushing so that plaque and bacteria are not sufficiently removed;
- Food and drink: this promotes the production of dental plaque and makes the enamel more susceptible to acid attacks up to an hour after eating / drinking.