How To Spot Signs of a Cavity (And Why Your Cavities Could Be Causing Heart Disease)

signs of a cavity

05 Oct How To Spot Signs of a Cavity (And Why Your Cavities Could Be Causing Heart Disease)

There are many potential causes of tooth pain, but tooth decay is the most common. So, if you have been experiencing a persistent toothache, chances are you could have a cavity.

Some people assume that only people with poor dental hygiene get cavities. In reality, estimates indicate that as many as 91 percent of adults have them.

If you have a cavity, it is important to have it checked sooner rather than later. Left untreated, a cavity can lead to several other serious health problems. To avoid these issues, here are some common signs of a cavity to look out for.

What Is a Cavity?

Simply put, a cavity is a hole in your tooth caused by decay. Cavities develop when acid produced by the bacteria in your mouth eats away at your enamel.

Damage to your teeth’s enamel is permanent. So, once you start to notice signs of a cavity, the most important thing you can do is take steps to prevent further decay. Typically, a dentist will fill a cavity to prevent it from growing larger.

What Are Signs of a Cavity?

How do you know whether it is time to be seen for a cavity? Here are some common signs to look for. If you develop more than one of these symptoms, you may indeed have a cavity.


One of the earliest and most common signs of a cavity is a persistent toothache. The pain can occur in the tooth itself, or in the gum below the tooth.

Also, the pain is often more severe when the tooth comes into contact with something. If the pain is severe when you bite into a piece of food or touch your tooth, it is definitely time to see a dentist.

Folks with cavities can experience both dull, throbbing pain and sharp, shooting pain. If you’re experiencing a toothache, here are some home remedies you can try while waiting for your dentist appointment.

Bad Breath or Bad Taste

Since cavities are holes in your teeth, they can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria. Additionally, food particles can become lodged in cavities. Both of these factors can produce bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.

If you have persistent bad breath, this can also be a sign that plaque buildup is affecting your gums, and leading to gum disease. A dentist will be able to identify what the source of bacteria is, and how to best treat it.

Sensitivity to Temperature

Many folks have sensitive teeth without necessarily having cavities. Worn tooth enamel from using a hard toothbrush or abrasive toothpaste can make teeth more sensitive to extreme temperatures.

Sensitivity to temperature caused by a cavity, however, is often much more extreme and acute. This is because the hole in the tooth can allow hot liquids and foods to get closer to the nerve inside the tooth. The larger the cavity gets, the more sensitive the tooth will be.

Bleeding When Brushing

If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, this is likely because your gums are swollen. While this can be a symptom of gingivitis, it is also be caused by a cavity. If you have other signs of a cavity in addition to bleeding while brushing, you should visit a dentist.

Visible Damage on Teeth

In some cases, you can actually see the damage forming on your teeth. In the early stages of a cavity, you may see stains on your teeth. If the stains are soft to the touch, that is a sign that a cavity is forming.

If you feel pain in a specific area of your tooth, take a moment to examine that area with a flashlight. You might be able to notice small holes on your teeth, which are definite signs of a cavity.

Dangers of Leaving a Cavity Untreated

If you notice signs of a cavity on one or more of your teeth, it is important to visit a dental service, or servicios odontologicos as they say in Spain! If you do not take care of a cavity, several other health problems can form.

Nerve Damage and Infection

When a cavity goes untreated, the hole in your tooth can get bigger and deeper. This makes the inner part of your tooth more vulnerable and can leave your nerve exposed.

Over time, bacteria can build up in this cavity, which can cause a painful infection deep in your tooth. Once you reach this point, you could require a root canal. Or, if you wait too long to have the tooth treated, you could end up needing the tooth removed entirely.

Cardiovascular Disease and Infection

The bacteria that develops in your teeth and gums when you have a cavity does not just affect your mouth. The bacteria buildup can enter your bloodstream. From here, it can travel to your arteries. Once the bacteria gets into your arteries, it can cause plaque buildup.

This can restrict blood flow, putting you at an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Also, the inner lining of the heart can become inflamed, leading to infection. If you are diabetic, these cardiovascular symptoms can also make it harder to control your blood sugar.

Additionally, the heart is not the only organ that can be affected by an infection in the mouth. Bacteria and plaque can also travel to the lungs, where there might cause pneumonia and other respiratory problems.

Plaque can even get into the brain and affect your nerves. Some medical professionals believe that this can lead to dementia.

Responding to Signs of a Cavity

If you have noticed two or more of the common signs of a cavity, it’s probably time to visit a dentist. This will prevent further complications, and promote your overall health. While you may not like visiting the dentist, it is certainly preferable to having teeth removed or developing cardiovascular disease.

To get treated for a cavity or other dental problems, contact us. We’ll get you set up with an appointment to get a check up on your oral health.

Dr. Daniel Allen

Daniel Allen, DDS has been involved in dentistry since 2003, starting his career as a dental hygienist before completing his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree at UT Houston Dental Branch. Dr. Allen is a sixth generation Texan and was raised here in Central Texas. Learn more

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