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What Do Cavities Look Like?

Cavities, those dreaded holes in our teeth, are not only a common oral health issue but also a significant one that can impact more than just your smile. Understanding what cavities look like can help you catch them early and seek timely treatment, preserving your dental health and preventing further complications.

The Early Signs of Cavities

Cavities begin small and aren’t always visible to the naked eye, especially in their early stages. However, there are some subtle signs that can alert you to their presence. Look for any noticeable changes in the colour of your teeth. Early cavities often appear as white spots or slight discolorations on the surface of the tooth. These spots may indicate the beginning of enamel demineralization.

Progression to Visible Holes

As cavities advance, they become more apparent. They can turn into brown or black spots. Unlike stains that might only affect the surface, these spots indicate decay that has set into the tooth enamel. Eventually, these spots deepen and widen into holes. At this stage, cavities may become visible to you and might collect food particles or cause the tooth to change its shape.

Sensitivity and Pain

Before you even see a cavity, you might feel it. Increased sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods can be a telltale sign of a cavity. This sensitivity occurs because the decay has reached the dentin, a softer layer beneath the enamel which is connected to nerve fibres. Pain when you bite down or touch the affected area can also indicate that a cavity has formed and is expanding.

Location and Context

Cavities can occur anywhere on a tooth but are most commonly found in places where plaque is likely to build up. This includes the grooves on the biting surfaces of your back teeth, between teeth, and around existing fillings or dental work. Cavities in these areas might look like dark shadows or pits and can often only be identified during a dental examination.

The Importance of Regular Dental Visits

Since cavities can start invisibly and grow unnoticed until they cause significant damage, regular dental check-ups are crucial. Dentists use various tools and techniques, including magnification and special lights, to detect cavities that aren’t visible to the naked eye. Early detection and treatment can prevent a cavity from reaching the pulp of the tooth, which can lead to severe infections and require more extensive procedures like root canals.


Now that you know what cavities look like, you’re better equipped to spot the signs and seek early intervention. Regular dental hygiene and check-ups are your best defence against cavities. If you suspect that you have a cavity, consulting your dentist as soon as possible can save your tooth and maintain your oral health.

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