The beginning of a cavity (also known as tooth decay) occurs when the bacteria in your mouth produce acid. If not thoroughly removed on a daily basis, this acid can destroy the enamel or outer surface of your tooth. This damage in the early stages does not usually cause pain. So if you don’t have discomfort that is good news! However, as the destruction progresses into the tooth, it can eventually reach the pulp. Once the decay reaches this point, you will most likely need a root canal and a crown. More advanced stages of decay are likely to cause pain. Sometimes the tooth has extensive decay, and the only option is to extract it.
As a general rule, tooth decay won’t hurt less or cost less than it does the day it is diagnosed.
During your dental examination, the dentist will evaluate your teeth both visually and with a dental explorer. Sometimes cavities can appear discolored, but that is not always the case. He also will review any x-ray and Spectra (diagnostic tooth) images. Decay on an x-ray can appear as a darker shadow between teeth. You may hear the dentist mention you have an “incipiency.” This is the earliest stage of a tooth decay located in the enamel or outermost portion of the tooth. More good news - decay can even be stopped at this stage with daily oral hygiene efforts and a healthy diet. However, once the decay progresses into the next inner layer (dentin), the cavity will need to be removed and a dental restoration placed.