I have a cavity? But I don't feel anything...

Patients are often surprised to find out that they have a cavity. I've been in that position myself, and understand the disbelief! When showing a patient their cavity on our HD screens, we often hear "but it doesn't hurt”. While cavities can lead to tooth aches, they rarely do.

Picture a completely rusted car in a junkyard. That corrosion began as small spots that eventually spread to destroy the car's body. Tooth decay is a similar, slow process that begins as a small cavity which, if left unrepaired, can worsen to destroy the tooth. When a cavity is small, perhaps only in the enamel, it is very unlikely to cause discomfort. It is important not to wait until you're in pain to visit the dentist. Here's why:

As discussed in previous blogs, a cavity is essentially an acid burn caused by bacterial by-products sitting on and in between your teeth. This is not something that happens overnight, but takes many months, and in some cases years, to develop into something that we can see on an X-ray. Cavities first burn into the outer enamel of the tooth, which is painless. They will then start to affect the next layer, dentin. Although sometimes you'll begin to feel the problem at this point, you often won't until the cavity burns deep into the dentin. At this point the cavity is still absolutely restorable with a standard filling.

Pain begins when the cavity is allowed to progress deeper into the dentin. At this stage the discomfort is telling you that the nerve may be affected. This is when real problems can arise. Additional work may be needed, including root canal treatment and other major restorative work, like onlays or crowns, due to the destruction of good tooth structure. 

In short, early detection with x-rays is an important aspect of cavity diagnosis. Don’t wait until you experience pain to visit the dentist. What could be caught as a small cavity requiring a routine filling can become a much more complicated and expensive problem if it is allowed to grow.


CrossKeys Dental is located at 110 CrossKeys Office Park in Fairport. Dr. DuPre՛ and Dr. Badali provide comprehensive family dentistry and are always welcoming new patients. Visit us at www.CrossKeysDentalFairport.com for more information.

© 2018 CrossKeys Dental in Fairport, NY by Vince Badali, DDS

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