How Can I Tell if I Have a Cavity?

September 8, 2022 in Dentistry by McCarl Dental Group
dental cavity

Unsure if you have a cavity? In some cases, dentists are the only ones who can readily identify this type of problem. Using advanced dental technology, pinpointing dental caries has become much easier, making early detection possible. But did you know some signs can arise even before you see your dentist? Keep reading to discover what to look for that might indicate a cavity as well as what you can do to minimize your risk.

The Facts Behind Cavities

Dental caries, also known as cavities, are caused by a breakdown of the tooth enamel which leads to tooth decay. Although cavities are often preventable, they are the most common chronic disease among children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 years old. This is usually because children are still learning how to properly brush and care for their teeth. Also, children tend to consume a lot of sugary candies and drinks.

Cavities are also prevalent among adults. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 92% of adults aged 20 to 64 have had dental caries in their permanent teeth. As individuals get older, they may become too busy to keep their regular dental appointments, or they may lose dental benefits through their employers. Keeping regular checkups can prevent or stop cavities in the early stages.


Tooth decay starts with bacteria in your mouth. As bacteria digest nutrients in food, they produce a sticky, acidic biofilm called plaque. If plaque stays on tooth surfaces, it gradually eats away at dental enamel, causing cavities. Some of the warning signs and symptoms of dental caries include:

  • Sensitivity – Cavities cause teeth to be sensitive to changes in temperature, and while eating sugary or acidic foods. Tooth decay may also cause hot or cold sensitivity.
  • Toothache – The decayed tooth causes pain and discomfort, especially while chewing.
  • Dental wear – Small cracks, chips, and breaks are common on the surfaces of teeth as the cavity breaks down the underlying dental structure.
  • Dark or white spots – In some cases, patients notice darker spots in their tooth enamel caused by decay. Demineralization leads to white or chalky spots on tooth enamel caused by cavities.

Like most oral health issues, the signs and symptoms of cavities may be subtle. In many cases, you may have no idea that you have tooth decay. Unfortunately, if left untreated, cavities can break down the enamel of a tooth and cause pain and possible infection.


If you want to avoid developing any of the above-mentioned signs or symptoms, it’s important that you remain committed to taking care of your teeth over the years. Some of the most beneficial tips to remember include:

  • Daily tooth brushing and flossing between each tooth and behind the back molars. Brushing should be done twice each day for two minutes. If dental floss is too difficult to use, try a water flosser, waterpik or floss threader.
  • Keep your regular dental checkups and professional teeth cleanings, as these allow your dentist in Millersville to detect problems early on and avoid complex restorative care.
  • Eat nutrient-rich foods like leafy greens, lean meats, low-fat dairy, and fresh fruits and vegetables instead of consuming large amounts of sugars and starches.
  • Drink lots of water as opposed to sugary beverages like soda, fruit juices, and sports drinks. Alcohol can also contain sugar and acids.


If you do experience tooth decay, your dentist can offer the most cosmetically and restoratively effective treatment option – tooth-colored fillings.

Composite resin fillings blend in seamlessly with your natural smile color. Because it bonds directly to your tooth, it allows us to preserve more of the natural dental structure, which is vastly different than using traditional amalgam that can expand and cause additional damage.

If the cavity is too large to restore the tooth with a filling, though, it may be possible to pursue comprehensive dental care with a natural-looking, durable porcelain crown or veneer. Using only the highest quality materials available, these customized restorations mimic the look of regular tooth enamel, so it is nearly impossible for anyone to tell the difference between your real and artificial teeth.

Taking proper care of your teeth through good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups will serve to keep cavities at bay. If you want to learn more about what you can do to reduce your risk of tooth decay and potential restorative care, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at McCarl Dental Group at Shipley’s Choice.

About the McCarl Dental Group at Shipley’s Choice
Whether you’re experiencing symptoms of tooth decay or it’s time for your dental checkup and teeth cleaning, our dentists strive to help patients maintain excellent oral health and keep healthy teeth and gums throughout their lives. We do this with a combination of excellent dental care, education, and encouragement to motivate our patients to take the best possible care of their teeth and gums. Contact our team in Millersville, MD to schedule a $55 New Patient Exam and Cleaning that also includes X-rays if needed. We’re happy to help you maintain your healthiest smile.