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Dental cavity is nothing but a hole that damages the structure of the tooth. These holes are also known as caries or even simply cavities. Tooth cavity symptoms are very common and is the second most common disorder affecting human beings after common cold. Dental cavity symptoms must not be overlooked, because these cavities are an important cause of tooth loss in younger people.

Causes of Dental Cavities

Cavity formation symptoms don't arise out of thin air. These symptoms of tooth cavities are the aftereffects that are visible to us. However, to avoid them we need to understand what are the factors that lead to their formation.

Bacteria: Normally, bacteria are present in the mouth to convert the sugars and starch ingested into acids. The food debris, bacteria, acid and saliva together combine to form a substance called plaque in the mouth. Plaque is quite sticky and adheres itself to the teeth, especially on the grooved surfaces of back molars and at the edges of teeth fillings. Plaque accumulate within 20 minutes after eating, which is the time when most bacterial activity starts. If it's not regularly removed from the teeth, the plaque mineralizes into tartar or calculus. Moreover, as more food is consumed, more plaque is formed, conducing to more tartar, thereby forming a vicious cycle. Together plaque and calculus irritate gums and conduce to gingivitis and periodontitis.

Dietary Sugars and Starches: The type of carbohydrate consumed and the time and frequency of ingestion are factors related to tooth cavities. Consuming sticky food items that get stuck on the surface of the tooth are more harmful than non-sticky ones. Snacking frequently increases the time of contact between acids and the tooth surface, which also assists cavity formation.

Acids: When the plaque adheres to the tooth surface, the acids present in it dissolve the enamel surface of the tooth. If the plaque is left on the tooth, these acids gradually corrode the tooth and damage its internal structures.

Symptoms of Tooth Cavity

Now that we know what causes tooth cavities, let us move ahead and learn about the symptoms of a cavity, so that we know when to rush to a dentist. In the initial stages of cavity formation, there is no pain or tooth cavity symptoms. You will not even realize that there is a cavity growing by the day and damaging the internal structures of the tooth. Only regular visits to the dentist will help you identify and nip the problem at the bud. Nevertheless, when you do begin developing the symptoms mentioned below, you know it's high time to rush to the dentist's clinic. The different symptoms of tooth cavity are:
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Toothache
  • Pain while biting
  • Visible pits or holes in the teeth
  • Pus around the teeth
  • Mild or severe pain while eating or drinking something cold, hot or sweet
  • Pain while breathing in cold air
  • Loose fillings
  • Bad breath
  • Earache
  • Headache
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Swollen and tender gums
The extent of damage and its location will conduce to different symptoms. Neglected cavities conduce to damage in the internal structures of the dentin and pulp portions of the tooth, thereby, causing the blood vessels and nerves in the tooth to die. Further neglect can conduce to tooth abscess. Tooth, once destroyed does not regenerate, however, the cavity progression can be inhibited by treatment. Filling the cavity, crown placement and root canal treatment help preserve the tooth and save it.

Cavity Diagnosis
Most people ignore subtle signs and symptoms of cavities and wait till the tooth gives trouble. Toothache is the last cavity symptom we should wait for. The only answer is regular checkups which can minimize the extent of tooth damage. During dental checkups, the dentist will use a dental instrument to poke and probe the teeth. In case of any cavity or decay, the surface of the teeth will feel softer than usual. To confirm the same, your dentist may ask you to take an X-ray which will reveal what is not visible to the human eye. Early detection of tooth cavities result in early treatment, thereby enabling the dentist to prevent the tooth from decaying further.

Visiting the dentist regularly (every 6 to 12 months) and having the teeth cleaned is mandatory for everybody. Do not wait till your tooth hurts or till the pain is unbearable (as some people do!) before visiting the dentist. It is best to have the teeth checked and fill all the cavities before serious damage is done. Good brushing, healthy food and regular checkups will help keep your teeth in good health. The saying 'a stitch in time saves nine' is applicable here!