Save yourself big problems by taking care of dental issues while they’re small.

More Americans visited their dentist in 2019, compared to 2016. Back then, 65.3% of Americans had a dental visit, which then went up to 67.6% in 2019. Pennsylvania ranks high on the list, with 69.5% of its residents seeing a dentist that year.

For many, these dental visits are for preventive care. For others, though, it’s due to mouth pain.

In most cases, toothaches occur due to a dental cavity. Dental cavities, in turn, are among the primary culprits behind lost and missing teeth in the US. Tooth decay, however, is highly treatable. Early treatment can save teeth from permanent loss.

In this guide, we’ll share the most crucial facts about tooth decay and how prompt treatment can help.

What is a dental cavity?

A dental cavity refers to a hole that results from tooth decay or dental caries. Dental decay, in turn, often occurs due to the acids that bacteria in the mouth produce. These acids can attack the surface of the tooth, causing the enamel to weaken and develop holes.

The earlier a cavity gets treated, the smaller the hole that the tooth decay can cause. By contrast, leaving a cavity untreated can lead to tooth pain, infections, and even tooth loss.

What does a dental cavity look like?

At their early stages, some cavities look like white or chalky spots on the surface of the teeth. In more severe cases, they can look like brownish stains. As they progress, the discoloration becomes darker until they look like black spots.

In many other cases, dental cavities have no easily visible red flags. They may affect the underside or the deeper fissures of the teeth, so you may not see the white or chalky spots when you check your teeth’s reflection in the mirror.

Dentists, however, can quickly spot them during a routine dental cleaning or check-up. This is one of the many great reasons to see your dentist every six months.

Your oral health care provider can also use digital x-rays to confirm if you have a cavity. An intraoral camera also gives the dentist an accurate way to identify dental decay.

Do dental cavities hurt?

In the beginning, most cavities don’t hurt. As the decay progresses, though, your teeth may become more sensitive. Sharp and sudden stabbing pain may occur when eating hot, cold, acidic, or sweet foods.

Many people, about 40 million in the US, do have naturally sensitive teeth; however, if you’ve only experienced the sensitivity recently, it may be a sign of a dental cavity.

I can tolerate the sensitivity, do I still need treatment?

Once a tooth develops a cavity, the decay won’t go away on its own. Without treatment, the holes on the teeth can keep growing. Tooth sensitivity, in turn, can worsen and start to feel more like intense pain.

As such, it’s best to see a dentist as soon as you see or feel any symptoms of a dental cavity. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent those holes from widening and spreading.

Treating tooth decay at its early stages often requires less complicated procedures, such as tooth-colored dental cavity fillings or dental bonding.

In some cases, dental crowns are a fantastic alternative to dental fillings. Your dentist may recommend this treatment if you have a slightly more advanced case of tooth decay. These tooth “caps” not only serve as a restoration; they can also protect the teeth from future decay.

Delaying treatment, on the other hand, can result in the loss of a larger portion of the affected tooth. The decayed tooth can develop severe infections, which put it at risk of extraction. The tooth may also become loose enough to fall out.

In the above cases, tooth functions are still restorable, such as with dental implants. As beneficial as implants are, however, it’s still best to keep as many of your natural teeth as possible.

Home Remedies for Temporary Relief From Tooth Pain

If you have tooth sensitivity, you may want to try a sensitivity control toothpaste. Look for the American Dental Association (ADA) seal, though—it’s a label that reassures you of the product’s safety and efficacy.

For minor toothaches, use warm water to rinse your mouth. Gently swish the water around to help remove any stuck food. The warm water may also help ease some of the pain.

You can also use a saltwater rinse as a first-aid treatment for a potentially infected tooth. The salt may help clear out the harmful bacteria in the affected tooth. It may also help reduce gum swelling.

You’ll also find ADA-approved toothpaste products and mouth rinses for plaque control. These can help reduce plaque formations, which can make your toothache worse.

Use an ADA-approved interdental cleaner or floss before every brushing session. Gently clean the spaces between the teeth to ensure that no plaque or food remains stuck.

ADA-approved oral products are excellent additions to your at-home oral hygiene routine; however, their specific use is to help prevent plaque build-up, which can lead to tooth decay. They don’t treat toothaches, even if they may help reduce the pain temporarily.

If your tooth pain persists, it’s best to get in touch with your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist can administer the appropriate treatment right away, and may be able to save your tooth rather than extract it.

Keep dental pain and decay at bay.

Proper oral hygiene and routine dental check-ups are vital for dental cavity prevention. Floss and brush after every meal, using science-backed, ADA-approved products. Also, saying hello to your dentist every six months can help make sure that cavities get treated on the spot.

If you’re having persistent tooth pain, please know that our dental team is ready to help. Feel free to get in touch with us or schedule your appointment online.