What You Need To Know About Cavities

The feeling is unmistakable: Your tooth becomes spontaneously achy and is suddenly extra sensitive to hot or cold. It’s a common sign of a cavity that needs to be treated.

Cavities are not at all uncommon, even for people who take great care with their oral hygiene routines, but there are some people who have had the good fortune of avoiding them for their entire lives. If that’s you, and you’re suddenly struck with the unpleasant sensation of ongoing tooth decay, then you’re probably wondering what the next step is.

There’s no need to panic; just take a look at this simple guide to tackling tooth decay. We’ll go over the signs and symptoms of cavities, different ways dentists detect them, and potential treatments to stop the decay in its tracks.

What is a cavity?

Cavities, otherwise known as caries, are among the most common tooth problems. They’re holes in the tooth caused by bacteria breaking down the protective enamel layer. A poor diet, particularly one high in sugar, and poor dental hygiene are common contributors to this bacteria-caused breakdown.

Cavities will continue to progress when left untreated, eventually reaching deep enough into your tooth to cause pain, sensitivity, infection, or even tooth loss.

Cavity Signs and Symptoms

When a cavity is significant enough, odds are you’ll know you’ve got one, but when they’re a bit smaller and less noticeable in your everyday life, they can be more difficult to identify. Keep an eye out for the following signs and symptoms that you may be experiencing tooth decay:

  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Spontaneous toothache
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold food or drink
  • A hole or holes in the tooth
  • Discoloration of tooth surface
  • Painful biting

If you’re experiencing one or more of these issues, chances are you’ve got a cavity that needs to be treated. If you want the best dentist Granite City, Illinois, has to offer, give Dr. May a call!

How Your Dentist Can Identify a Cavity

Some moderate cavities can be spotted by the naked eye, but when they’re in their earliest stages, cavities are not so easy to identify. Your dentist can often find these cavities during an oral evaluation using an instrument called a dental explorer.

When the cavity exists between the teeth, however, they may require dental X-rays in order to spot.

Potential Treatments for Cavities

If your dentist determines that you do have a cavity, your treatment options will depend on the severity of the decay. Those options are listed below, along with some useful information about them.


Fillings are the go-to option when it comes to treating small cavities. Your dentist will simply fill your cavity with either amalgam or composite resin to stop the decay from causing you pain and spreading any further.

Metal fillings are a different color than your natural teeth, whereas the composite material is tooth-colored and less noticeable.

Dental Crowns

When the cavity is significant, sometimes your best option is a dental crown. Dental crowns are designed to resemble a natural tooth and are cemented on top of the tooth once it’s been prepared.

Your dental crown can be made in a lab, which may take a few weeks, or you can receive a same-day crown thanks to E4D technology. A same-visit crown makes the process of treating your cavities a much simpler and quicker process than ever before.

Root Canal

Tooth decay will continue to spread until it has reached deep into the tooth, at which point the dental pulp becomes infected. Once infection is present, a root canal will be necessary to avoid extraction.

Root canals involve cleaning out the inside of the tooth, removing all infection and bacteria, and refilling the tooth with a biocompatible material.

Tooth Extraction

There are certain instances in which the decay is significant enough that the only option is to remove the tooth entirely. Once the tooth is extracted, there are several replacement options to consider.

A dental bridge uses your surrounding natural teeth to support a prosthetic in place of the lost one, while a dental implant involves the fusion of a titanium post into the jawbone, which can then support a dental crown.

Do you think you have a cavity?

If you’ve noticed any of the signs we mentioned earlier and think you may have a cavity, don’t delay. Early treatment is key to preventing more involved and more expensive treatment later on. To request an evaluation with Dr. May and discuss your options, click here.