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 decay gets larger. However, there are ways to help prevent and find treatment if cavities are discovered in their very early stages.


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, tooth sensivity can range from mild to severe. Sensitivity is one of the most common symptoms and can seem to occur out of nowhere.

  2. 02

    Pain When Eating or Drinking

    Sensitivity or pain from a cavity can be especially noticeable when you eat foods or drink beverages that are hot or cold. Even sweet foods and liquids can alert you to sensitive teeth and a potential 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 when applying pressure or biting down, it could be the sign of a cavity or dental issue.

  4. 04


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

  5. 05

    Holes or Pits in Teeth

    When you have a cavity, you may be able to see a tiny hole in the tooth where the decay is occuring. Visit your dentist if you have a concern with the health of your teeth.

  6. 06


    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. Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth could be signs of a cavity

What Does a Cavity Look Like?

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 no early cavity signs? An X-ray at a dentist visit can easily illuminate the problem. It’s just another great reason to keep up with your regular six-month dental checkups.

How to Prevent Cavities

Between dentist visits, oral care products, such as LISTERINE® TOTAL CARE ZERO FRESH MINT Anticavity Mouthwash, are great ways to help prevent tooth issues and decay.

Illustration of teeth
Cavities & Strong Teeth