The Early Warning Signs of Cavities

Everything is going along fine. You brush, floss, and rinse regularly, just like you’re supposed to. Then, when you visit a dentist for your regular cleaning and checkup, you get hit with the news: you have a cavity.

This is something no one wants to hear. Having a cavity almost always means submitting to anesthetic, followed by drilling and filling the offending tooth. In most cases, it is a painless procedure, but still, the average person would rather not have to go through it.

If only you could have done something more to prevent cavities. There’s actually a lot you can do, from participating in a proper oral health regimen to avoid sugary, starchy, and acidic foods and loading up on calcium.

However, your genetics, your body chemistry, and diseases or needed medications can all contribute to the onset of tooth decay and the formation of cavities. Your best bet, then, is to catch them early before they cause serious harm.

You are the first line of defense and your dentist in Birmingham AL is the second. However, you need to know the warning signs to look for between dental visits so that you can schedule an appointment if you suspect a cavity is forming. Here are a few early warning signs that you have a cavity.

Staining on Teeth

All kinds of foods and beverages can stain teeth, from coffee, tea, and soda, to foods and beverages containing dyes. Smoking can also stain teeth. These stains occur on the enamel, or the hard outer covering of the tooth, and they can often be removed through proper cleaning.

So how can you tell when tooth staining is a sign of cavities? Certain types of staining can be indicative of tooth decay. White spots on teeth, for example, could be an indication that the enamel has worn down and minerals like calcium are being depleted.

Brown or black spots, especially in the grooves of teeth or between teeth, could indicate food, bacteria, and plaque buildup that is difficult to reach with a toothbrush. This is why flossing and rinsing with mouthwash is so important to your oral health regimen.

Tooth Sensitivity

The enamel that protects your teeth helps you to avoid sensitivity to hot or cold foods, as well as sweets. Some people are prone to sensitivity anyway, but if you begin to notice increasing sensitivity when you consume hot or cold foods or beverages, or sharp pains when you eat sweets, there’s a good chance your enamel has been worn away or compromised by some kind of trauma.

You’ll want to speak to your dentist right away to find out what you can do to reverse the condition and if you should come in for x-rays to check for cavities, which may already have started to develop.

Pain when Biting

If your teeth are functioning properly, you should be able to chew food without any pain. If you start to notice pain in a specific tooth when chewing, it’s possible that your enamel has become cracked, chipped, or worn, and/or that you are developing a cavity.

Visible Pitting

Tooth enamel creates a smooth, shiny surface that covers the tissue of each tooth. When the enamel wears away and your teeth come under attack by bacteria, you may not only notice staining, but also visible pitting or holes in your teeth.

This is a major warning sign that cavities are on the way, if they haven’t already begun to develop. If you notice this visible symptom, contact your dentist immediately for a checkup and to begin treating the condition before further damage is done.


By the time you find yourself dealing with a chronic toothache, you’ve probably already developed a cavity. At this point, bacteria have breached the enamel and infiltrated the soft pulp, reaching all the way to the nerve, which is why you’re feeling a persistent ache.

It’s true that a toothache may be caused by something other than tooth decay, such as trauma or a dying nerve. Regardless, a toothache should always signal that something is seriously wrong and you should call your Birmingham dentist for an immediate consultation. Likely a cavity is the best you can hope for if you’ve reached the point of a toothache.