26% of adults in the United States have untreated tooth decay. In most of these cases, people don’t even know that their teeth are decaying inside their heads!

In some cases, people don’t go to the dentist often enough. In a system with broken healthcare, complicated health insurance, and expensive services, people often opt out of going to the dentist.

There’s also a lack of education. What are the signs of tooth decay? Many people don’t know.

Dental fears also contribute to this issue. However, issues can start snowballing and piling up. One cavity can turn into multiple cavities and then lead to the enamel being worn away and more issues developing.

That’s why we’ve developed a guide to the 7 early warning signs of tooth decay. If you find yourself Googling ‘what is tooth decay’, or if you’re simply looking to improve your oral health, we can help.

1. Consistent Bad Breath

Is your significant other often complaining about bad breath? Are you often popping mints or carrying gum wherever you go?

Everyone deals with ‘morning breath’ or an occasional bout of covering your mouth with your hand. But if it’s happening regularly, that’s something to check on.

Start by tackling the issue with consistent hygiene. We all know that we should be flossing and brushing regularly, but how many of us are actually doing it?

If you’re flossing, brushing, using mouthwash, and completing all the tasks your dentist has assigned you, then it’s time to suspect the likely culprit: tooth decay.

If bad breath is now normal for you, then it’s time to check in with your dentist and dig into the root cause.

2. Tooth Sensitivity

What happens when you eat or drink something hot or cold? Does ice cream sometimes cause pain?

Some level of tooth sensitivity is relatively normal. After all, very few people decide to take on an ice cream cone like they would a steak.

However, if you’re experiencing abnormal or new tooth sensitivities, it could be a sign of tooth decay. Here’s an easy rule of thumb: if a medical issue is impacting your quality of life, even in small ways, it’s time to get it checked out.

One of the major issues with our medical system is not prioritizing our health. Because of cost, poor insurance, or other complications, people ‘think’ their way out of what their body is telling them.

Phrases like ‘it isn’t so bad’, or ‘I can deal with it’ are signs that you are trying to reason your way out of the pain. Instead, it’s crucial to tune into what your body is telling you. Your brain isn’t your only source of information—your body knows what it’s talking about, too.

3. Odd Taste

Do you have a weird taste in your mouth? If you’re constantly gargling and brushing your teeth, and still have a foul taste, this could be an indicator.

Here’s how it works. When your teeth have cavities and are decaying, this produces waste. This waste produces bacteria, which settles around your teeth and in your mouth.

Then, this bacteria produces a foul smell. This results in an odd taste and bad breath. By the time this has occurred, you are past the early stages of tooth decay.

4. Toothache

One of the most alarming signs of tooth decay is experiencing pain. For many people, this symptom is what prompts them to visit the dentist.

Pay attention to how you bite or chew. Sometimes, people adjust their natural biting or chewing patterns to avoid pain. If you find yourself biting down on one side of your mouth, it could be a sign that your body is adjusting to avoid pain.

These types of toothaches often result from inflammation surrounding the affected tooth. It will often occur in one of two ways.

Sometimes, you will only experience aches caused by tooth decay when you eat. It could even depend on what you eat, and whether there’s a lot of chewing involved.

Or, it might not be prompted by chewing at all. Instead, you could experience a seemingly random onslaught of pain.

If these issues occur, get them checked out. It’s likely a sign of tooth decay, but it could be another issue altogether. Tooth pain doesn’t tend to improve on its own.

5. Swollen Gums

Take a look at your gums in the mirror. Many people don’t pay attention until their gums start bleeding or hurting.

Gum swelling is unfortunately common because many people don’t floss regularly. However, common doesn’t mean normal! No one should be experiencing gum swelling.

Pay attention to where your gums look swollen or inflamed. Sometimes, you’ll be able to see or feel noticeable swelling around a specific tooth.

If that’s the case, get it checked out. Swelling is another potential sign of early tooth decay, and dental care will have you feeling better in no time.

6. Discoloration

At this point, paying attention to your dental health may feel like a full-time job! Rather than feeling overwhelmed, consider this rule of thumb: if something is out of the ordinary, pay attention.

Your body knows what it’s doing. If something isn’t functioning properly or feels ‘off’, that’s a red flag for your oral health. Get it checked out!

In this specific case, look for discolored spots on your teeth. Sometimes, these spots will look white at first. Then, as decay continues to set in, you will see gray, black, or brown spots that continue to spread.

7. Holes in Your Teeth

What is an early sign of tooth decay? Some people don’t pay attention to their teeth, so ‘early’ signs of cavities or tooth decay may be quite far along in the process.

As we mentioned above, keep an eye out for odd spots on your teeth. However, you should take a minute to feel your teeth with your tongue. Then, take a close look in the mirror.

Do you see or feel any small gaps or holes? If something feels off, then it probably is.

Signs of Tooth Decay

Taking care of your oral health is a major contributor to your quality of life. If you spot any potential signs of tooth decay, get it taken care of! You’ll thank yourself later.

If you’re looking for top-notch compassionate dental care, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today—we can help!