It pays to spot a cavity as early as possible. Over time, cavities ‘grow’ as they start to erode your teeth more and more, until eventually they reach the nerves and blood vessels. At the same time, the risk of gum disease also increases as a cavity gets larger – making it all the more important to catch it early.
Unfortunately that is a lot easier said than done for the one simple reason that cavities show little or no symptoms when they first start to form. Essentially when a cavity first forms it is really just a buildup of plaque that slowly but surely starts to eat into and erode the outer layer of your teeth (known as the enamel). At that point, it is really close to impossible for you to know that you have a cavity.
The point where your cavity will become more noticeable is when it gets past the enamel and into the dentin. Because the dentin is softer it will erode more rapidly – at which point you may be able to ‘feel’ the cavity as a missing part of your teeth. Even that is tough to spot, unless you closely inspect your teeth regularly.
Generally the earliest sign that people tend to notice is the tooth sensitivity, tooth ache, and other forms of mild or sharp pain that may come along with the cavity when it starts to expose the nerves in your teeth. By that point however the cavity would have progressed to the point where it may need a very large filling or crown to rectify.
Keeping all that in mind, there is really only one surefire way to spot a cavity as early as possible: Attend your regular dental checkup once every six months. At these checkups, your dentist will be able to scrutinise your teeth and identify any buildup of plaque or tartar that could potential lead to a cavity. Also if your enamel has been eroded in any way the dentist will be able to pick up on that and correct it immediately.
Additionally, as part of your regular checkup the dentist will also clean your teeth thoroughly and scale it if necessary. Together that should ensure that your teeth are squeaky clean and reduce the likelihood of any cavities forming dramatically.
As far as preventive measures go, it is easy to see why a regular dental checkups is as important as oral hygiene. Both will help you to reduce the risk of cavities and the former will help you to catch them as early as possible so they can be treated with minimal hassle on your part.
If you suspect that you may have a cavity, it is best to visit your dentist as soon as possible.