Do cavities always hurt?

When a cavity hurts, that means it’s pretty advanced. Cavities can cause people to feel sensitivity to heat and cold that feels like a little zing. They can cause a toothache. They can even cause a sore or abscess in the soft tissue of your mouth. At the extreme end of spectrum, a very large cavity can decay the root of the tooth and it will stop hurting and be numb. Those are all signs that you should visit a dentist.

However, MOST of the time cavities don’t hurt at all! One of the benefits of visiting a dentist regularly is that you get an expert to take a look in your mouth (where you probably don’t look) and tell you what they see and what is going to become a problem.  And getting x-rays means the dentist can see even the places where he can’t really see (like between teeth). Just because a cavity doesn’t hurt YET, doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt in the future. To treat cavities, we clean out the decay (the cavity) and fill the space with a tooth-colored material. Getting cavities taken care of early is the standard of care, because a small filling is better than a big filling. Small fillings preserve the most natural tooth structure and have less chance of failing. A big filling can cause aches and sensitivity for people, especially if they grind their teeth at night, even though it might be necessary to save the tooth.

The bottom line is that regular dental visits help find cavities early, before they start hurting, when they’re easy to treat. However, if you visit a new dentist that diagnoses a bunch of new cavities, it’s worth it to get a second opinion. There are many times when I prefer to watch a potential area of concern and see what it does before we decide to work on it. If it has been a while since a dentist took a look at your teeth, schedule an appointment today!