Symptoms of Tooth Decay


Could that nagging ache in your mouth be a warning sign of a cavity? If you feel discomfort when eating sweet foods, or notice stains on your teeth, it’s time to visit the dentist.


By spotting these early signs of tooth decay, you can prevent further damage and avoid the dreaded root canal.

What Is Tooth Decay?

The food we eat, along with bacteria, create build ups of plaque in our mouths. Without consistent brushing and flossing, plaque can eat away at the enamel surface that protects your teeth.


Tooth decay is when a tooth’s surface breaks down, leading to cavities and worse health conditions. Untreated tooth decay can progress to an abscess or infection in the mouth that needs urgent medical care.

What Are Symptoms Of Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay can be tricky to spot in its early stages. Here are the most common symptoms of tooth decay to watch for:

1.    Hot or Cold Sensitivity

If a bite of ice cream causes an uncomfortable sensation in your teeth, the problem may be tooth decay. Similarly, hot food and beverages can create an aching or burning feeling in the affected tooth.


When the enamel on the outside of the tooth wears away, it leaves the dentin tissue underneath exposed to extreme temperatures. Hot or cold foods can irritate cells and nerves inside the tooth. Sweet and sticky foods can also create discomfort.

2.    Toothaches

Pain in the mouth and jaw is never a good sign, so see a dentist if you feel an ongoing ache on one or more of your teeth.


Some toothaches are triggered by biting down on food, while other pains come and go on their own. It’s also common to feel soreness in the jaw and mouth area around a decaying tooth.


3.    Staining on the Tooth

Take a closer look at your teeth, and you may be able to spot visible symptoms of tooth decay. Early tooth decay stains look like white spots on the surface of the tooth.


As the cavity progresses, you’ll notice these white stains darkening to a brown or black color. Look for swelling and redness in the gums as another clear sign of decay.

4.    Holes or Pits in Teeth

As tooth decay worsens, you’ll see the stains on the surface develop into small holes. These pits are visible when you look in the mirror, and you can also feel the indent with your tongue or finger.


Some holes are easier to see than others. A dentist will be able to spot tooth decay pits in tricky crevices, like between molars. If you feel or see a hole in your tooth, it’s critical to get to the dentist for care.

Tooth Decay Treatments

Depending on your tooth decay situation, your dentist will recommend different procedures. If you have a small cavity, the dentist can file away the decay and replace it with a filling or crown to mimic the natural tooth surface.


In more severe cases, the dentist may call for a root canal, which replaces decayed pulp at the tooth’s core. A thoroughly rotted tooth may need to be removed and replaced with an implant.

Treat Symptoms of Tooth Decay with Our Partner Dentists

If you notice tooth decay symptoms in your child or teenager, our Kool Smiles Kids Club partner dentists are ready to help. They offer children and teenagers professional treatment for strong, healthy smiles.


Find a location near you to have an expert look at your symptoms of tooth decay.