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What Does A Cavity Look Like and When to See A Dentist

What Does A Cavity Look Like and When to See A Dentist

Ali Fadakar -

Let’s be brutally honest with each other: some of us don’t like going to the dentist. It's like taking your car in for an oil change. You expect it to be some inexpensive, routine maintenance, and then the next thing you know, the mechanics are telling you that there is something seriously wrong, and you have to fix it now. But we’re here to tell you that teeth, like cars, don't have to come with surprises.

At Supersmile, we’re here to share the ins and outs of cavities with you, including important tidbits like how to spot one and when it's time to get some professional help. Armed with information, you'll know your teeth so well that you can take the words right out of your dentist's mouth. 

So, let’s explore the forbidden world of cavities to help make sure we keep your pearly whites healthy, happy, and bacteria-free and your smile is 100% ready for the next time you're in the dentist chair. 

What Do Cavities Look Like?

As the name suggests, a cavity is a hole that develops in your tooth. 

We’ll talk more about avoiding getting cavities in a bit, but for now, let's focus on what cavities are and how to identify them. 

Generally, the hole is too small for you to see when you say “Ahhh” and look in the mirror. 

Even once you already feel the symptoms of a cavity (toothache), you probably will not be able to see it with your naked eye. Get to the dentist as soon as possible so your cavity doesn’t get worse. The dentist will take an x-ray to confirm the cavity and its depth, which will determine the right course of action. Your dentist will most likely share the x-ray results with you as he explains the next steps. If he doesn’t, just ask! 

It’s especially important to see your dentist because the so-called cavity symptoms that you’re feeling could be caused by other underlying medical causes. Make sure you mention all of your symptoms to your dentist. 

Achy, Breaky Teeth

The easiest and most common way to know if something is wrong is the old-fashioned toothache. 

It might be a gradual ache or a sharp pain when you bite down on something firm like an apple, but you shouldn't ignore the pain if it continues for multiple days. You might notice that eating extremely hot or cold food triggers the pain, too, even if the food is soft or soupy. This may also happen if you accidentally chip or crack your tooth, although that pain is often much worse than the beginnings of a cavity

Either way, don't just take painkillers and ignore it; make an appointment to see your dentist. 

Spot the Spots

Checking in with your teeth is a beautiful thing. 

With good light and the right angle, you may be able to see a spot on your tooth. It could be black or brown if the infection has already set in, but the spot is often white. 

That's the reason it can be so difficult to see. 

A white spot might not necessarily mean you have a cavity yet, but it usually signals that the enamel on your tooth is weak in that spot. 

With this info, you can take steps to up your smile game, and you may be able to prevent a cavity from forming in the first place. However, you should probably still see a dentist just to make sure.

If you can actually see the hole in your tooth, you should rush that appointment. Unfortunately, by the time you can see a hole, you most likely really need to get that filling ASAP. 

Don't Forget the Gums

Although bleeding or swollen gums are usually signs of gingivitis and not necessarily a cavity, you should remember that having gingivitis makes you more prone to cavities. 

The reason is that the same plaque, made of food particles and bacteria, that infects and irritates your gums also rubs away at your teeth's enamel because it is so acidic. Eventually, you can develop a hole from all of that plaque. 


Halitosis is the scientific term for bad breath. This isn't a definitive symptom when taken on its own because there are plenty of reasons why your breath may not be smelling minty fresh. 

For instance, if you’ve just eaten Italian food, the chances are that your breath may be a little garlicky

But if you notice that your breath still smells bad even after you brush, floss, use a tongue cleaner, or use mouthwash, that could be a sign of infection in your mouth, either in your gums or in the form of a cavity. 

Either way spells trouble for your smile, so get to the dentist on the double. 

How To Know When You Need Help

We hate to break it to you, but every cavity requires a dentist. 

There is no way to get rid of the hole in your tooth once it's there. 

So, if you think you have a cavity, you should make an appointment with your dentist to get it addressed as soon as possible. 

If you wait, it might not seem like a big deal now, but the hole will only get larger, and the longer it stays open, the more chance there is of it getting infected from the food particles and bacteria that naturally live in your mouth. 

How Does the Dentist Help?

Without getting into the technical nitty-gritty of the process, the general overview is that the dentist will clean out the hole, check it for signs of infection, and then (assuming they don't find one) fill the hole. 

The dentist will make this filling out of the materials covered by your insurance or what the dentist prefers to use. You might notice that some people have silver fillings, some have white ones, and other people even have gold fillings. Whatever material your dentist may choose, filling the hole or cavity is important for a healthy mouth and body

What Causes Cavities?

As mentioned above, cavities are usually caused by the build-up of plaque. 

Plaque is made of leftover food particles from whatever you ate and drank throughout the day that have mixed with the natural bacteria housed inside your mouth. That mixture easily sticks to your teeth, especially around the gum line. It's acidic enough that it can wear through the enamel on your teeth and cause an infection in the more sensitive layers of dentin underneath. 

Additionally, some people grind their teeth in the night, and continual grinding can wear down your teeth enough to cause cavities.

It might be something as simple as falling or running into a cabinet, but chipped teeth happen all too easily. That chip can still become a cavity because it allows bacteria to get inside your tooth. 

Ways To Avoid Cavities

The best ways to avoid cavities are by keeping your mouth clean and your smile bright. 


You can do this by gargling with some mouthwash in between meals, changing out your toothbrush head regularly (every three months is highly recommended), remembering to always floss before brushing your teeth, and doing your best to protect that 100-watt smile. The best way to fight cavities is to brush and floss every day, twice a day for two minutes.  

Current Status: Brushing It

Everyone knows that you should brush your teeth to keep them healthy, but are you giving your mouth what it really deserves? 

If you want to fight off cavities, the best way to do it is with a great toothbrush, protective toothpaste, and the knowledge to brush your teeth the right way. 

That's right -- there's a right way to brush. It means brushing your teeth twice a day, in the morning and before you go to sleep at night, for two minutes each. Less than two minutes doesn't allow you to get every nook and cranny. 

Floss Like A Boss

Your dentist has probably reminded you dozens of times about the importance of flossing. They weren't exaggerating, trust us! 

By flossing before you brush your teeth, you loosen the plaque that builds up around the gum line and in hard-to-reach places. 

Plus, you also dig out any annoying popcorn bits and other types of food that easily get trapped in the spaces between your teeth. 


In addition to preventing cavities, flossing also keeps your gums healthy and strong. You may notice a little bit of swelling or bleeding when you start your flossing routine, but that should stop as food particles, plaque, and bacteria are removed. 

En Garde!

If you are one of the many people who grind their teeth in their sleep, you should talk to your dentist about buying a mouthguard. It might feel awkward and make it difficult to sleep for a couple of nights, but we promise that your teeth will thank you. 

A mouthguard won't stop you from grinding and it may cause a little drool pool on your pillow, but it will keep you from creating a breeding ground for cavities. 

Also called bruxism, teeth grinding can wear away at your enamel and cause fillings to fracture. Once the enamel has been worn down, bacteria in plaque can continue to eat away at the remaining healthy minerals in your tooth enamel, causing cavities. 

A mouthguard can also help your jaw relax a little bit when you drift off to sweet La-La-Land.

In Conclusion

Be proactive and stay prepared by keeping your pearly whites brushed, flossed, and minty fresh. You avoid cavities with these helpful tips, and then, if you do by chance find a cavity in your mouth, you'll know what it looks like and to make an appointment with your dentist right away. 

At Supersmile, we believe everyone deserves the joy of a beautiful smile, and we have made it easy to get a healthy white smile at home by just brushing your teeth.  So make sure you’re giving yours the TLC it deserves every day!