A cavity is a decayed part of a tooth caused by plaque.


Signs of a cavity often depend on how serious it is and where it’s located in the mouth. Usually cavity symptoms are not noticeable until the area of tooth decay gets larger. However, there are ways to help prevent and find treatment if cavities are discovered in their very early stages. Read on to discover how you can tell if you might have a cavity.


Of Adults Have Cavities

How to Tell If You Have a Cavity

If you have any of the symptoms below or think you might have a cavity, check with your dental healthcare professional.

  1. 01

    General Tooth Sensitivity

    What does a cavity feel like? With a cavity, you will likely experience tooth sensitivity that can range from mild to severe. Sensitivity is one of the most common symptoms of a cavity and can seem to occur out of nowhere.

  2. 02

    Pain When Eating or Drinking

    Sensitivity or pain from a cavity or tooth decay can be especially noticeable when you eat or drink certain foods or beverages that are hot or cold. Even sweet foods and liquids can trigger tooth sensitivity related to a cavity. Check with your dentist to see whether your tooth sensitivity is due to a cavity or other causes.

  3. 03

    Pain With Pressure

    Even when not eating, if you experience sharp pain in your tooth when applying pressure or biting down, it could be the sign of a cavity or dental issue.

  4. 04


    In the early stages of a cavity, you might have mild or no pain at all, which makes tooth decay hard to detect. However, if ignored, you could develop a toothache with severe pain in your teeth. This pain tends to be constant, whether you’re eating, talking or doing nothing at all.

  5. 05

    Holes or Pits in Teeth

    Wondering what a cavity looks like? When you have a cavity, you may be able to see a tiny hole in the tooth where the decay is occurring. If you see a tiny hole, dent, or pit in your tooth this could mean that you have a cavity. Be sure to visit your dentist if you have a concern with the health of your teeth.

  6. 06


    Another visible sign of a cavity can be tooth discoloration. A spot or stain on a tooth that appears bright white, brown or black could be another cavity symptom due to decay. Although it could be a natural stain, have a dentist check it out if you’re concerned.

  7. 07

    Bad Breath

    Cavities are infected areas that can collect food particles and become breeding grounds for bacteria. Therefore, persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth could be a symptom of a cavity.

What Does a Cavity Look Like?

While it is usually difficult to see a cavity in its beginning stages, some cavities start with a whitish or chalky appearance on the enamel of your tooth. More serious cases can have a discolored brown or black color. However, most often there are no distinguishable red alerts. So how do you know if you have a cavity when there are few early cavity signs? A periodic X-ray at a dentist visit can help to easily identify tooth decay that could be cause a cavity. It’s just another great reason to keep up with your regular six-month dental checkups.

How to Prevent Cavities

Between dentist visits, brushing daily with fluoride toothpaste and using oral care products, such as LISTERINE® TOTAL CARE ZERO FRESH MINT Anticavity Mouthwash, are great ways to help prevent cavities and tooth decay.

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    Cavities & Strong Teeth

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