How do I know if my cavity is too deep?

This blog post will address the topic, “how do I know if my cavity is too deep?” and cover topics like can you tell if you have a cavity by looking at it, how bad is a cavity if you can see it,  how does a cavity deepen, ways to tell if you have a deep cavity, does cavity always indicate bad oral hygiene, what happens if you have an untreated cavity for too long and how can you stop getting cavities.

How Do I Know If My Cavity Is Too Deep?

A deep cavity may show the following signs and symptoms:

  1. Larger hole size in your tooth.
  1. Darkening of the tooth surface.
  1. Pain and sensitivity that may be continuous and discomforting.
  1. Tooth abscess formation leading to pus discharge and bad breath.
  1. Crown of the tooth may be decayed partially or completely with black discoloration.

Can You Identify A Cavity By Looking At It?

Yes, you can tell if you have a cavity by looking at it. A cavity looks like a hole on the tooth through which you may see the bottom of the tooth with the help of a dental mirror.

Dental Cavity or tooth cavity, is a hole that develops on the surface of the tooth due to loss of mineral content from the enamel, resulting from the repeated acid attack by the plaque bacteria.

When you see a hole in your teeth or darkening of the teeth, you must consult your dentist as it may be a cavity.

How Bad Is A Cavity If You Can See It?

If you can see a cavity on your tooth, then the cavity might have progressed and may be pretty bad. Presence of hole that has also darkened is a bad indication and you must immediately book an appointment with your dentist.

If you see a hole on your teeth or feel it through your tongue but have no symptom of pain or sensitivity, then it might not be that bad and may have not reached the dentin or pulp.

Following good oral hygiene, or maybe getting the hole filled will help heal the cavity quickly without causing any pain, discomfort or tooth infection.

Stages Of Cavity Formation: How Does A Cavity Deepen?

Consumption of sugary and starch rich foods expose the tooth to acids frequently, resulting in mineral loss from the enamel.

Infrequent tooth brushing habits cause poor oral hygiene, resulting in plaque accumulation.

Plaque is a sticky film containing bacteria that coats the protective enamel of your teeth. These bacteria produce acids by breaking down the food debris and the acids penetrate the enamel leading to formation of white spots on the teeth.

The cavity formation takes place in 5 stages:


  • Appearance of the white spots on the surface of the tooth as the mineral loss begins from enamel due to bacterial acid attack.
  • This stage can be reversed with preventive actions and maintaining good oral hygiene.


  • If the white spots are ignored and no preventive actions are initiated, the repeated acid attacks wear down the mineral and enamel is decayed
  • Visible hole is seen and now the cavity becomes irreversible.


  • The decay moves down further and attacks the inner soft dentin.
  • This is called the Advanced Cavity Stage.
  • Slight pain and sensitivity starts


  • In this stage, the decay finally reaches the pulp and irritates the nerves
  • Pain, sometimes excruciating, Sensitivity and Discomfort is seen in this stage.
  • Root Canal is the only treatment option other than extraction.


  • After pulp involvement, if treatment is not initiated, the infection spreads to the surrounding structures of the tooth and inflammation is caused.
  • Extreme pain and even tooth loss may result

7 Ways To Tell If You Have A Deep Cavity 

Clearly Visible Hole In Your Tooth

Cavity is a hole that can be seen or felt with the help of your tongue. Hole on your tooth or teeth is an indication that you might have a cavity formed.

Tooth Pain 

Pain in the tooth is an indication of a cavity that has reached pulp. When cavity is ignored in its earliest stage, it deepens to enter dentin and finally enter pulp causing infection, resulting in pain.

If pain is felt in the tooth, it may be a cavity and you must consult your dentist.

Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is an indication of cavity reaching the dentin. 

When the cavity in its earliest stage is not repaired or filled or healed naturally through good oral hygiene and calcium rich foods, it deepens and reaches dentin.

On reaching dentin, the dentinal tubules are exposed and sensitivity develops on eating or drinking something hot or cold or sugary.

Tooth Darkening

If you see your tooth getting darker in color, it may be due to tooth decay or cavity.

When the cavity exposes pulp tissue, bacterial invasion occurs and pulp gets infected. 

Infection in the pulp is manifested as excruciating pain, sensitivity and darkening of the tooth.

At this stage, consult your dentist or an endodontist to get a root canal done.

If the tooth infection has destroyed the entire tooth, then extraction may be the only option.

Tooth Abscess And Pus 

Sometimes you may not notice a hole or you may not initially experience pain or sensitivity or you may experience an occasional pain and sensitivity that might be ignored by you.

In any of the above cases, you miss out on noticing a cavity, resulting in cavity deepening and finally causing tooth abscess and pus accumulation around the infected tooth.

Bad Breath

Persistent bad breath may be an indication of poor oral hygiene and cavity formation. 

Cavity that deepens and results in tooth infection, causes halitosis which does not go away even after mouthwash or brushing.

If you have persistent bad breath, you must consult your dentist for an oral examination.

Tooth Fracture

If you notice your tooth fractured suddenly or after eating any hard food, then it must have developed a cavity. 

Cavity weakens your tooth and it might not withstand the biting force and fracture.

Does Cavity Always Indicate Bad Oral Hygiene?

No, cavities may not always mean bad hygiene. Cavity may even form in those who brush and floss daily and maintain good oral hygiene. 

Cavity may not always mean bad or poor oral hygiene and may be a result of incorrect brushing or flossing, or incorrect timing of brushing like just after acidic foods or drinks, or may also occur due to continuous use of highly abrasive toothpaste.

What happens if you have an untreated cavity for too long?

If you have a cavity untreated for too long, it spreads and destroys the enamel, reaching the dentin and may even reach pulp. Once the cavity reaches pulp, it causes pulp infection leading to tooth pain and sensitivity. 

If tooth infection is left for too long, it can spread to adjoining jaw bone causing inability to open mouth and even osteomyelitis of jaw bone. Untreated tooth infection may also affect the heart causing infective endocarditis and increased risk of heart diseases.

How Do I Stop Getting Cavities?

Maintaining good oral and dental hygiene can help you to stop getting cavities. Good oral hygiene can be obtained through:

  • Tooth brushing twice daily – Brushing twice a day, once in the morning and once at night before going to bed, for two minutes is essential to prevent plaque build up and thereby prevent tooth decay.
  • Use Fluoride Toothpaste – Fluoride can greatly help achieve oral and dental health by strengthening the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to tooth decay. Fluoride reduces the amount of acid produced by the bacteria on your mouth. 
  • Floss daily – According to a study, flossing is highly effective in reducing the interproximal caries risk. Daily floss can help stimulate your gums and reduce plaque leading to lesser inflammation risk.
  • Occasional use of therapeutic mouthwash containing active ingredients – Therapeutic mouthwashes as the name suggests have therapeutic action and control dental conditions like gingivitis, tooth decay and periodontal diseases. 
  • Oil Pulling – A study concluded oil pulling using coconut oil to be an effective procedure in decreasing plaque formation and plaque induced gingivitis. Similarly other studies have also found oil pulling to be an effective and safe procedure to reduce plaque accumulation and thus heal small cavities naturally.
  • Eat Foods Rich In Calcium, Magnesium And Phosphorus – Calcium and magnesium plays an important role in enamel remineralization and saliva production. Calcium rich foods like cauliflower, nuts, salmon and figs, helps in optimal saliva production that acts as a natural cleanser and prevents plaque accumulation and thus cavity formation.
  • Vitamin D rich diet or vitamin D supplements prevent cavities from forming – According to research, children with vitamin D deficiency had an increased risk of developing enamel defects and tooth fracture. Another clinical trial reported vitamin D to be a prominent agent for caries prevention.
  • Avoid frequent snacking – Frequent snacking in between meals increases the risk of getting cavities, as the simple carbohydrates in these snacks provide a perfect breeding ground for cavity-causing bacteria.
  • Avoid brushing teeth just after having acidic foods or drinks – You must wait for 30 minutes to one hour after consumption of acidic foods and drinks. The acid in the food or drink otherwise may erode the enamel layer and regular habit may cause exposed dentin leading to pain and sensitivity and increased risk of developing cavities.
  • Use Gentle And Short Strokes When Brushing – Use gentle, short strokes to brush your front teeth and thoroughly clean your mouth without abrading the enamel and preventing cavities from developing.
  • Consult Your Dentist Twice In A Year – It is important to get your oral health checked twice every year with an interval of 6 months between two visits. 
  • Dental Cleaning Once In 6 Months To Prevent Cavities Formation – Dental cleaning can help in removing the plaque and tartar and thus prevent formation of a cavity or decay or gum disease or periodontal disease of any type.
  • Simple rinse with water each time after you have food – You must also clean your teeth and gums, each time after you have food but not with a toothbrush. Simple rinse with water is considered good for overall oral health and hygiene.
  • Get those pits and grooves sealed to prevent formation of cavities – If you keep getting cavities even if you brush and floss your teeth, there may be several pits and grooves present on the occlusal surface of your teeth. The food particles get stuck in these pits and grooves, not possible to remove from brushing, resulting in plaque buildup, acid attacks on enamel by plaque bacteria and finally cavities formation.


This blog post addressed the topic, “how do I know if my cavity is too deep”. We understood if you can identify a cavity by looking at it, how bad is a cavity if you can see it,  how does a cavity deepen, ways to tell if you have a deep cavity and does cavity always indicate bad oral hygiene. The article outlined symptoms of having an untreated cavity for too long and how you can stop getting cavities in the first place.


How do I know if I need a filling or root canal?

If you notice a hole on your tooth surface or feel a hole with your tongue but pain, sensitivity and discomfort is occasional or rare, then your cavity has not reached pulp and may need filling.

But if you notice or feel a hole with excruciating pain and sensitivity and discomfort that interferes with your daily life activities, then your cavity has reached pulp tissue and you may need a root canal treatment.

How Long Can A Cavity Wait To Get Filled?

A cavity may take a few months or even years to worsen and need filling, depending on your oral hygiene, eating habits and body defense mechanism.

However, it is always recommended to visit your dentist as soon as you notice a cavity or feel it with your tongue. 

Your dentist will guide you best in this regard and will inform you if you require filling immediately or you can wait and reverse it naturally.

How do you heal a cavity in 2 days?

The only way to heal a cavity in 2 days is to get a filling done at your dentist’s office. It takes almost an hour or less to fill a single cavity. 

In case of multiple cavities, the dentist might give you multiple appointments.

Why Do I Suddenly Have So Many Cavities?

You suddenly develop so many cavities because of the sudden change in your oral hygiene habits brought in by stress of a new routine or a new job.

Stress commonly results in dry mouth, which further results in quick plaque and tartar buildup, finally resulting in cavities at a faster rate.

How Fast Do Cavities Grow?

The cavities grow as fast as in six months or may take longer ranging from four to five years, depending on the condition of your oral cavity.

Do Cavities Spread?

No, cavities do not spread but may result from the same cause once again on another tooth.

Cavities do not spread from one tooth to another but may be caused by the same process and under the same conditions if proper treatment and oral hygiene is not maintained.

Other FAQs about Teeth Cavities that you may be interested in.

How can I temporarily fill a cavity at home?

How can I heal a cavity in 2 days at home?

How bad is a cavity if you can see it?


7 Proven Ways How to Tell If You Have a Cavity

Cavities – How to Tell if You Have One – WebMD

Cavities/tooth decay – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

Signs of a Cavity: What Are the Symptoms of Tooth Decay?

The Tooth Decay Process: How to Reverse It and Avoid a Cavity. (2018)

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