Tooth Decay Symptoms

One of the more common dental problems, tooth decay can negatively impact the structure and overall health of the teeth.  There are numerous causes for tooth decay so knowing the sings and symptoms can help patients receive treatment as quickly as possible.  This article will highlight some of the common symptoms of tooth decay.

Common Tooth Decay Symptoms

  • Visible Discoloration:  In its earliest stage of development, a cavity may cause dark spots or discoloration on the surface of the tooth which may be mistaken for normal tooth staining.  Over time, the discolored area gets bigger, signaling tooth decay.  In some cases, a cavity may appear as a white spot or light mark on the tooth.
  • Holes in the Tooth:  As tooth decay progresses, the bacteria in the cavity gradually wears away the tooth enamel leaving small pits and holes on the outer layer of the tooth.  Holes are a clear indication that a cavity has formed and will likely need to be repaired with a filling.  The decay will first be removed before the hole is filled in.
  • Sensitivity to Cold or Hot:  If tooth decay progresses past the outer layer of enamel, the dentin gets exposed leading to further issues. Because the dentin is porous and connects to nerves, sensitivity issues can arise when the dentin becomes irritated.  Eating or drinking hot or cold items can lead to a sudden shooting pain in the affected tooth.  Even the passage of air while breathing can lead to discomfort.
  • Discomfort and Pain:  A cavity frequently leads to pain and discomfort in the affected tooth.  Biting and chewing often result in sharp, shooting pain and even flossing and brushing can be unbearable.  This is most common when the decay has exposed the dentin or penetrated into the inner tooth pulp.
  • Unpleasant Taste and Bad Breath:  Cavities and tooth decay are caused by bacterial infections that compromise a tooth.  Like any other organism, the bacteria in the mouth produce waste that can lead to a foul tase in the mouth and bad breath.  Anyone noticing a persistent bad tase or chronic bad breath, may want to visit a dentist to rule out any decay.
  • Swollen or Bleeding Gums:  In some cases, a cavity or decay may form near the gum line.  When this happens, the soft tissue (gums) surrounding the tooth may become inflamed, swollen, or bleed.  Swollen or bleeding gums may be especially noticeable when flossing or brushing.  Because bleeding gums can be a sign of gingivitis, consultation with a dentist can better identify the cause and recommend appropriate treatment options.
  • No Symptoms (Asymptomatic):  Early in the process of formation, a cavity may appear small and not result in any symptoms.  Many patients will not realize they have a cavity until the decay is diagnosed during a routine dental checkup.  While it is nice to not have symptoms to deal with, it can be problematic in seeking treatment in that the patient does not realize they have the cavity until it has advanced.

More on Tooth Decay : What Causes Tooth Decay?