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Do Cavities Hurt?

Excerpt: Cavities often hurt, but they might not, and the pain that you...
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Not all cavities will show symptoms, these cavities are referred to as “minor” cavities (dental caries) however, most cavities will cause some form of discomfort and will need to be treated.

Cavities often hurt, but they might not, and the pain that you feel may be deceptive that it is a cavity since it might feel like it’s coming from your gums. In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of symptoms you might feel and what you can do about them.

What Is A Cavity?

Almost every adult has had some form of tooth decay, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 92% have experienced a cavity. That means only 8% or less have never had a cavity! Not all cavities will need treatment, as some are considered “minor” cavities, and they will not get worse over time. However, most afflicted individuals will experience more serious cavities that do need treatments.
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Symptoms Of A Cavity

Cavities have multiple symptoms:

Tooth Sensitivity

The bacteria in the tooth will produce plaque and tartar, over time this process will result in eroding away the enamel. As the enamel starts to become thinner, the protection it provides will eventually get weaker over time. This will result in the tooth becoming more sensitive to temperature. Specifically, hot and cold food, beverages, and even air, can cause the tooth to feel pain.
Tooth sensitivity however, can also happen without any decay, and it may be a temporary disturbance. However, there also may be an underlying issue. If you have sudden onset tooth sensitivity that lasts longer than 48 hours, you should consider seeing a dentist.

Tooth Pain

Depending on the severity of the cavity and it’s location, you may feel different types of pain. If the cavity is on a tooth that takes a lot of impact you might also feel sharp pain when you chew. However, it is also known that the pain may appear to be radiating from your gums instead of your teeth. This may give you the wrong impression that it is potentially gum disease and not a cavity. Gum disease is reversible at home, cavities are not reversible and they will need to be treated at a dental clinic.

Holes In Your Teeth

Is it a tooth stain or a cavity? They will have similar appearances since a cavity will always appear darker then the enamel. Typically, discoloration does not come with the pain or sensitivity symptoms that accompany a cavity. If the tooth hurts or is sensitive in anyway, there is a good chance that stain may be a cavity. If it is discoloration however, you will want to also know why, since stained teeth are generally not a desired look.

Causes Of Cavities

Tooth cavities are caused by the build up of naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria will digest carbohydrates, a biproduct of this digestion is plaque, plaque is a colorless sticky film that adheres to your teeth. If the plaque is not cleaned in time, it will harden to tartar. Plaque and tartar will cause cavities

Who’s At The Most Risk?

Even the healthiest individual is at risk of a cavity on a daily basis, however, there are lots of actions you can take to lower your chances of getting a cavity. 
These include:
  • Cutting back on fruit juices, soda, energy drinks, sports drinks
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Having a good oral care routine
  • Avoiding alcohol and tobacco products
  • Getting adequate amounts of fluoride 

Cavity Treatment Options

Cavities have lots of treatment options since they are so prevalent in our society.

Tooth Fillings

Fillings are a common way to treat many cavities and they can be made out of many different materials to suit a variety of functions and issues.


Typically, crowns are meant for more severe cavities. Crowns replace the entire top half of the tooth, if the tooth is severely decayed, but still considered restorable, a dentist will most likely wear a crown.

Root Canal Therapy (RTC)

A tooth will need RTC treatment if the inner part of tooth is infected, this type of infection can eventually make it’s way to the jaw bone and can also cause a dental abscess. 

Dental crown example

Complications Of Cavities

Any cavity that isn’t considered “minor” will need to be treated, or else you’re risking significant complications that can occur later in life:


  • Worsening pain
  • A tooth abscess
  • Tooth loss
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty eating and speaking
  • Pus
  • A bad taste in your mouth

If you’re prone to procrastination, or if you feel dental anxiety, you should consider how bad the situation could be if you don’t go to the dentist. Doing it sooner than later will prevent a lot of issues, and it will be easier as well, if you get in the habit of avoiding the issue, that will seem easier then dealing with it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get an appointment, the earlier a cavity is treated, the easier and more cost-effective it will be.

Our clients have an appointment every 6 months. If you think you need more then you can discuss that with the dentist.

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