Cavities—or dental caries—are when a hole develops in a tooth as the tooth begins to decay. This results in a permanently damaged portion of the outer layer of your tooth. If left untreated, it can begin to alter the deeper layers of your teeth.
There are a number of reasons why cavities develop, including acid, erosion, teeth grinding, diet, and many more. You may not feel a cavity, or you may experience moderate to severe pain. It is important to catch and treat a cavity before it begins to detrimentally affect your health.
What Are the Signs of Cavities?
Cavities begin to form on the outer layer of your tooth, which is why you may not feel any pain at first. You may be able to see small holes or feel little pits in your teeth where the cavity has formed, or teeth may begin to turn brown or black near the cavity.
As the cavity progresses, you may start to feel pain or increased sensitivity to temperatures, such as hot coffee or cold iced water, or sweet foods and drinks. Cavities can also cause pain when the decaying area experiences pressure.
The more advanced signs of a cavity are also associated with infection or gum disease. A cavity can cause a bad taste in your mouth, or it can cause you to have bad breath because a portion of your mouth is decaying.
As the decay worsens, you may have bleeding gums, redness inside your mouth, or swelling in your face. You should see a dentist before it reaches this point because infections in your mouth can be deadly.
How Do Cavities Affect Your Body?
The decaying part of your tooth in a cavity needs prompt removal to save the dental structure. The cavity will be drilled out, and the decayed portion will be filled with a composite filling. While the filling saves the tooth, you are still losing a portion of your tooth to decay.
Depending on the severity of the cavity, you may have to have your tooth extracted, which is a much more complicated procedure that involves more pain and recovery than a dental filling. If you do not seek prompt medical attention, the cavity may advance into a serious infection.
Your mouth is an entryway into the rest of your body, so any infection in your mouth can spread quickly. Not to mention, an infection in your mouth is very close to your brain.
If you are experiencing pain or sensitivity while you eat, it may inhibit your ability to eat properly. Not only will you not be able to enjoy eating and drinking your favorites, but you may also endure weight loss due to malnutrition.
Cavities can cause your teeth to be misshapen, discolored, or missing altogether. So on top of their physical effects, cavities can alter the aesthetics of your smile, which can diminish your confidence.