Say ahh! 7 cavity symptoms to look for in your mouth

When a tooth throbs or your gums swell, it's easy to make an appointment to see the dentist. But do...

When a tooth throbs or your gums swell, it's easy to make an appointment to see the dentist. But do you know how to identify a new cavity? Symptoms aren't quite as obvious for this common form of tooth decay. Open up and say ahh! Here are seven cavity symptoms to look for.

1. Holes and pits in the teeth
Peek inside your mouth using a small hand-held mirror. If you notice a recessed area that is discolored and painful, it may be a cavity. Some cavities hide between teeth, making them difficult to see. A dentist will use X-rays to view these hidden areas.

Reduce your risk of cavities between the teeth by using dental floss before or after each time you brush your teeth. This removes lingering food particles that get wedged between the teeth. The food eventually breaks down and causes cavity-forming bacteria.

2. Tooth sensitivity
Does it hurt to brush your teeth or bite into an apple? This extreme sensitivity to pressure can be an early indicator of tooth decay, according to the Mayo Clinic. Eat soft foods and soup until you can visit the dentist.

If the pain is unbearable, don't let your dental health suffer. Use an antiseptic mouthwash to keep your mouth clean and breath fresh until you can see a dentist.

3. Reactions to temperatures
Another sensitivity to watch for is sharp pains when eating or drinking foods not at room temperature. If taking a drink of hot coffee or eating a bite of ice cream makes your teeth ache, you may have a lingering cavity.

Some people have sensitivities to temperatures because the enamel on their teeth is wearing away. If you don't have a cavity, keep this sensitivity to a minimum by using a specially formulated toothpaste to neutralize sensitivities to temperature. Your dentist can also prescribe an oral rinse that numbs the teeth during mealtime.

4. Visible pus
Can you see yellow or green fluid around the base of a tooth? This is infection. Although infection doesn't always accompany a cavity, it may. Infections in the mouth accompanied by visible swelling are serious and should be treated immediately.

If your dentist can't see you within the hour, go to an outpatient clinic or emergency room for an evaluation. Infection that enters the bloodstream can affect areas of the body beyond the mouth.

5. Lingering odor
If you have an unpleasant, pungent taste in your mouth--or lingering on your breath--you may have tooth decay. These cavity symptoms often indicate several cavities or advanced stages of tooth decay. Extra tooth brushing, using mouthwash and flossing won't get rid of the odor of tooth decay.

6. Pain near fillings
Cavities like to form near the edges of existing fillings, according to WebMD. If you have several fillings, and pain in your mouth, talk with your dentist about getting a prescription for an antiseptic mouthwash containing chlorhexidine, a powerful cleanser.

If you aren't already, consider brushing after each meal. This removes any lingering food particles that encourage cavities to form.

7. No symptoms
New cavities don't usually let you know they are there. That's why prevention is the best way to avoid the expense of dental fillings and tooth decay treatments. Here are a few ways to protect yourself from getting cavities.

  • Brush your teeth every morning when you wake up. This not only freshens your breath, but also removes bacteria that formed overnight in your mouth.
  • Brush your teeth after meals. This removes sugars and starches that stick to your teeth and cause dental decay. Plus, nobody wants to smell the onions you had on your sandwich!
  • Use dental floss before or after each brushing. This loosens food particles trapped between teeth and behind your molars. Try wax-covered floss if you have sensitive gums.
  • Rinse with mouthwash to flush food from tiny crevices in the teeth. Your toothbrush can't reach the entire surface of each tooth. If your gums are tender, try an alcohol-free mouthwash.
  • Limit your intake of soda. This sugary beverage also contains enamel-eroding acids that promote tooth decay and artificial coloring that can stain teeth.
  • Eat sweets sparingly and brush your teeth after having a sugary dessert or glass of fruit juice.
  • Enjoy sweet tea with a chaser of water. This helps rinse the sugary beverage from your teeth.

It's a good idea to have a dental cleaning and checkup every six months. Your dentist will visually examine the surface of each tooth for signs of cavities. Call an Atlanta-area dentist today to schedule your next dental exam.

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