how to know if you have cavities

Cavities are areas in the hard portions on the surface of your tooth that have developed into tiny holes or openings.  If the cavity has been around for a while, you might experience some pain, particularly when drinking or eating something hot, cold or sweet.

When it’s just beginning, you might not even have or show any symptoms of a cavity. When you have cavities, you may notice holes or pits in your teeth using a mirror.

Many people assume that cavities only happen to children but the fact is that as you age, changes happening in your mouth also makes them an adult problem. As one age, the gums tend to pull away from the teeth, especially if you suffer from gum disease. This tends to expose the roots to the growth of plaque. And this is one a major contributor to the development of cavities.

Self-Diagnosis For A Cavity

As the tooth decay gets larger, you may notice the following signs and symptoms from your own self-diagnosis:

  • Toothache sensitivity
  • Spontaneous pain (a toothache)
  • Sharp to mild pain when you drink/eat something cold, hot or sweet
  • Pain when biting down
  • Visible holes in your teeth
  • Black or brown staining on the tooth surface.

At times, you may not even be aware that you have a cavity forming. This underlines the importance of having dental checkups regularly as well as tooth cleanings, even when you feel fine. However, in case you experience any tooth discomfort or pain, its best to consult your dentist immediately.

Should You Self-Diagnose?

Tooth decay and cavities can have lasting and serious complications on health, even for those kids who haven’t grown their permanent teeth. Cavities are likely to cause pain that can interfere with your daily living. The danger with self- diagnosis is that it usually happens at a late stage after noticing some pain or discomfort. The cavity may have become very severe already and possibly lead to tooth loss.

Tooth loss could affect not just your appearance but your self-esteem and confidence. In the event of a wrong or self-diagnosis, pus caused by the bacterial infection can result in more serious and even life-threatening infections.

While regular dental visits and good oral health can help prevent tooth cavities, they still do happen. The danger of relying on self-diagnosis is that you might not even notice the symptoms of cavity symptoms until it is too late or when your dentist alerts you that you need a filling.

How Do Dentists Tell If You Have A Cavity?

Your dentist will usually detect if you have a cavity during the regular dental checkup. The techniques used by your dentist for the tooth decay and cavity diagnosis includes several methods and tools such as:

  • Visual examination
  • Metal probe instruments
  • Radiographs
  • Laser diagnostic tools
  • Trans-illumination.

Once a cavity is detected, it becomes important to start treatment immediately lest you end up losing the tooth.


Over the passage of time, the decay will eventually reach the inner layer of your tooth, the dentin. This is when the development of a cavity starts. Good dental and oral hygiene can greatly help you to avoid tooth decay and cavities. Ensure that you regularly visit your dentist for an oral health check-up and stop the formation of cavities. 

Author: Peter Mayhew

Peter is a dental hygienist in the city of Chicago, IL. In his free time he likes to write blogs and product reviews on anything dental health related.