Have you spotted what looks like a stain on one of your teeth? Then you need to take a closer look before you assume it is a simple stain. Cavities start out as caries: the early stages of a cavity, before the worst damage occurs. In the early stages of its formation, a cavity looks very similar to your average coffee stain.
If you have noticed a stain on your tooth and you aren't sure if it is a stain or a cavity, look for the following signs.
White spots indicate a cavity
A cavity forms when tooth enamel breaks down due to acid excreted by the bacteria that live on your teeth. Acidic foods and beverages also contribute to the demineralization of enamel. When enamel starts to demineralize, it turns a bright shade of white. If you notice any white spots on the stained tooth, then the stain could very well be the beginnings of a cavity.
When enamel demineralizes, it becomes porous. As a result, staining molecules from foods lodge in the porous surface of the enamel and cause a localized stain.
Stickiness is a sign of a cavity
Another common sign that is hard to spot is stickiness. If, when you run your tongue over the stain, it feels sticky, then it could be a cavity. Bacteria create sticky films to help them cling onto the surface of teeth. Stickiness then indicates that bacteria are living on or in the stained enamel. And demineralized enamel feels sticky to the touch too.
Rough enamel is an early-stage cavity
One of the obvious signs that a stain is actually the beginnings of a cavity is roughness. Normal stains are smooth. But a cavity feels rough and spongy when you run your tongue over it.
White margins reveal the extent of the cavity
Take a close look at the edges of the stain. Can you see any white margins around the edge? If you can see white margins, then you are looking at a new cavity. While in the early stages, some cavities may stop progressing before they turn into full-blown cavities. But white margins mean that the stained portion in the center might already be a cavity.
Don't assume that a tooth stain is harmless. Look for the aforementioned signs. If your stain is in fact an early-stage cavity, then book a dental appointment as soon as you can. Otherwise, the stained area could soon become a hole.
To learn more, contact a dentist.