Signs & Symptoms of a Cavity

Tooth decay that leads to cavities is one of the most common dental problems, and most people are likely to have at least one cavity in their lifetime, especially as children. However, many people do not realize that cavities are also common among adults and teenagers! Tooth decay and cavities arise from the unfortified and weakened teeth that develop into holes, causing great pain and discomfort to the person. Cavities or tooth decay can be caused by one or more factors ranging from poor hygiene to the excessive intake of sugary foods, drinks, and confections. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into an explanation of what causes cavities and some signs & symptoms that you might have one!

How Does A Cavity Form? 

Plaque Formation 

The first cause of cavity growth is the formation of plaque, a clear, sticky coating that develops on your teeth and is a result of eating sugary foods and poor dental hygiene. When an individual does not clean their teeth often and properly, the dental environment promotes the growth of bacteria that will help erode the teeth.  

Tartar Formation 

Plaque turns into tartar, a hardened plaque substance that is extremely difficult to remove. Due to the acidic nature of plaque and tartar, teeth begin to slowly decay and create tiny holes known as cavities.

Dentin Degradation 

After the slow degradation of the enamel, the exterior of a tooth, the tartar begins to erode the dentin, the immediate softer layer of the teeth. The dentin contains responsive nerves to the tooth, heightening sensitivity and causing cavities to be painful. 

Total Tooth Degradation 

As tooth decay worsens, bacteria feed in the inner tooth filled with blood vessels, causing the pulp to become infected, irritated, and swollen.

Symptoms Of A Cavity

Cavity formation will not always cause discomfort initially, and individuals may not notice that they have a cavity right away. Further down the line, when partial or total destruction begins, the decay starts to cause immense pain and may damage the entire oral health of a person. Listed below are some signs that a person might have a cavity: 

Tooth Sensitivity 

Teeth sensitivity or pain is a significant indicator of a cavity. As bacteria acts on the tooth, the dentin, home to nerve endings, becomes affected. The attack on the dentin causes pain as the nerve endings become more sensitive and responsive to stimulus. When an individual drinks or eats cold, hot, sweet, spicy, or acidic foods, the exposed nerve endings react to these foods immediately. 


Pain in one or more teeth points to the disturbance of one or more teeth in the mouth. This pain can either be a full and recurring ache or an occasional sharp pain in the tooth. Regardless, toothaches in one or more regions point to the formation of a cavity and the degradation of the teeth by bacteria. 

Yellowing Teeth 

The buildup of plaque & tartar in the mouth can cause discoloration of the teeth, which can be a sign of poor dental hygiene. If poor hygiene persists, the bacteria in this plaque & tartar can cause cavities. In extreme cases, poor dental hygiene can cause teeth to become brown or even black. 

Contact Gentle Dental Maine!

Are you a resident of Southern Maine suffering from tooth decay, toothaches, or sensitive teeth and gums? Contact Gentle Dental Maine today for the region’s best dental care! Our family dentists specialize in general, cosmetic, restorative, and emergency dentistry services at each of our offices in South Portland, Biddeford, and Topsham. Give us a call at any of our offices, or if you’re not yet a patient with us, please fill out the new patient form on our website!