Who doesn’t love a good meal or delectable dessert? While these may taste good, many people experience some type of pain or discomfort resulting from an undetected cavity somewhere in their mouth. This can subside for a time, but eventually, it will reveal itself again and may even grow larger if not attended to as soon as possible.

By the time you reach adulthood, you most likely have experienced at least one cavity. Maybe even more. Fortunately, methods for detecting cavities as early as possible continue to improve, and now your dentist can identify one quickly and with relative ease.

Boy getting teeth cleaned

What Are Cavities?

Cavities, also referred to as tooth decay, can occur on any tooth in your mouth. They are permanent damages to the hard surface, or enamel, of your teeth and show up as tiny holes or slight openings.

The bacteria already in your mouth mix with sugars in the drinks and food you consume on a regular basis. This mixture, in turn, creates what’s known as plaque. The plague then sits on your teeth, and its acidic contents wear away the hard tooth enamel and seep inside your tooth.

Unfortunately, your body can’t heal teeth damaged by cavities. The prompt removal of the damaged part is imperative to prevent further spread of the tooth decay, which can lead to severe problems down the road.

What Are the Causes of Cavities?

Cavities develop due to a number of different factors, including:

  • Mouth bacteria
  • Lack of brushing or flossing
  • Consumption of sugary drinks and foods

Clues you may have a cavity and require a visit to your dentist include:

  • A throbbing or achy sensation in the tooth and surrounding area
  • Sensitivity, where changes in temperature, such as hot or cold, or sweets make you wince
  • Noticeable dark spots or discoloration of a tooth
  • A hole or crack in the tooth, which you can see or feel with your tongue
  • Bleeding or swelling of your gums in one area of your mouth
  • Bad breath that remains even after brushing and using mouthwash

Left untreated, cavities get bigger. The deeper layer of a tooth is affected and can lead to additional issues. It may even lead to a painful toothache, development of an infection, or loss of the tooth altogether.

How Do Dentists Detect Cavities?

Often, your dentist might suspect a cavity forming and use one or more methods to confirm. These methods include:

  • Visual Inspection during a Dental Exam: During a dental visit, a visual inspection of your mouth, teeth, and gums is conducted to see if anything is out of the ordinary. A cavity may be identified by a discoloration, holes in your teeth, or signs of tooth enamel damage. Often, if it is visible upon first look, you are already experiencing some type of symptoms, including discomfort or sensitivity.
  • Use of a Dental Probe or Explorer: After a visual inspection of your mouth, a dentist may pick up a dental probe or explorer to check teeth crevices for signs of cavities. With the help of a tiny mirror on one end, the dentist will press the explorer gently into these areas. If it sinks into the crevice, the site of breached tooth enamel is located, which most likely is a cavity.
  • Intraoral Camera: The invention of the intraoral camera makes locating and identifying cavities much easier these days. A pen-like instrument with a camera is inserted in your mouth and moved about slowly. This camera provides images on a computer simultaneously, showing your dentist what is going on inside your mouth at close angles.
  • Dental X-rays: The use of dental x-rays detects any level of decay on or between teeth, whether small or large. Your dental team will take several images from different angles. Your dentist will then study the x-ray results and identify any discolorations which often result in a cavity diagnosis.
  • Laser Detection: Subsurface cavities are often hard to detect, even with x-rays. The next step then may be the use of a wand-like device for laser cavity detection. The device relies on a light wave reflection and is slowly moved over your teeth. This method provides precise information on the location, size, and actual shape of the cavity.

You can protect your teeth from cavity formation by brushing and flossing regularly and scheduling biannual dentist cleanings and exams. Also, avoid excessive sugary food and drinks to help your teeth stay healthy. For children, talk to your dentist about a dental sealant to help protect them from cavity formation.

Keep Cavities at Bay with Stiles Dental Care in Medford, NJ

Whether you are experiencing symptoms of a cavity or haven’t been to a dentist in a while, scheduling an exam and biannual cleaning with Stiles Dental Care is as easy as calling our office at (609) 451-2016. We will provide a thorough examination and provide you with information so you can make informed decisions about your dental health. Contact us today to get started.