Top Signs of a Cavity

By Dr. Ribeiro on October 30, 2020

Illustration of a cavityDental cavities are a type of tooth decay that forms when bacteria and plaque buildup around the teeth, softening and damaging tooth enamel. Tooth decay is a progressive condition, so without treatment, cavities can lead to further complications.

Unfortunately, if a patient is unaware that they have a cavity, they may not seek dental care. To ensure that individuals pursue the care they need, it is important that they recognize potential signs of a cavity. Here, family dentist Dr. Richard Ribiero discusses the top signs of a cavity that our Clarksville, TN, patients should consider.

Increased Tooth Sensitivity

Cavities breakdown tooth enamel, which exposes underlying dentin. Dentin is softer than tooth enamel, and more sensitive. Additionally, the deeper that a cavity goes, the less protection there is for the nerves and tissues that lie at the root of the tooth. All of this can lead to increased tooth sensitivity.

If someone notices that they are more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, if they experience sensitivity when consuming acidic foods and beverages (like coffee, orange juice, and wine), or if the teeth feel sensitive when biting down, they may be suffering from a cavity.


A dull toothache, or sporadic tooth pain, is another possible sign of a dental cavity. While some of our Clarksville patients may deal with persistent discomfort, it is more common for a toothache to come and go. Irritation or pain is most likely to flare up when a person is eating or drinking, especially if they are biting down on hard or sticky foods, or if they are consuming foods and beverages that are particularly hot or cold.

Dark Spot on the Tooth Surface

A cavity often manifests as a dark spot on the surface of the tooth. Cavities may cause small areas of black, brown, or gray. Of course, dental stains can also cause darkening of the tooth enamel, so a mark on the tooth does not necessarily mean there is a cavity. One way to distinguish between a dental stain and a cavity is that a cavity is likely to feel rough or sticky, while a dental stain should feel the same as surrounding tooth enamel.

Visible Holes or Pits

Cavities are small areas of decay that cause holes or pits in the outermost layer of the tooth, or the enamel. Depending on which tooth has a cavity, and where on the tooth the cavity is located, they may not be visible. However, if one of our Clarksville patients notices a hole or pit on the surface of a tooth, it is highly likely that a cavity has developed.

Persistent Bad Breath

A lesser known sign of a cavity is persistent bad breath. Decay and infection are both caused by a buildup of bacteria, and when a substantial amount of bacteria is present, fresh breath can turn bad. If someone notices that they are suddenly struggling to keep the breath fresh, even with good oral hygiene habits, then a dental cavity or other oral health problem may be present.

Contact Us

If you suspect you are suffering from a dental cavity, it is important that you schedule a dental exam as soon as possible so that the problem can be treated. To discuss your concerns with Dr. Richard Ribiero, send us a message online, or call our dental practice at (931) 645-6362.

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Dr. Ribeiro has been my dentist for many years, and he has always provided exceptional service. His staff is very professional and courteous. They always go out of their way to ensure I have a pleasant experience. Tina Reed

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Clarksville Office

2305 Rudolphtown Rd
Clarksville, TN 37043

More Info Directions (931) 645-6362