Five Signs You Have a Cavity

by Dr. Diane Hourigan

Nobody wants to admit that they might have a cavity, but sometimes the warning signs are too prominent to be ignored. As your general dentist, Dr. Diane Hourigan is available to help patients correct all sorts of cavity-related issues, but she only can help those that know to seek assistance. Leaving a cavity alone is never a good idea, so keeping an eye out for the following signs of a cavity can help you get yours corrected before it leads to bigger problems:

#1 Tooth Sensitivity

If you find that a tooth is suddenly much more sensitive to heat and cold than normal, there’s a good chance that something is wrong with that tooth. While the underlying issue could be any of a number of things, it is not common for this type of sensitivity to just go away, especially if the problem causing the sensitivity is a cavity.

#2 Tooth Pain

Sometimes, this sensitivity can turn into outright excruciating pain, and unfortunately if this is the case, there is a good chance that you allowed your cavity to grow for too long. Left unchecked, cavities that turn painful may require root canals, which are much more complicated procedures than simple fillings or extractions.

#3 Holes in Your Teeth

The dictionary definition of “cavity” is a “a hole,” so if you can see or feel an impression in the front or side of your tooth, it is possible that there is a cavity located there. A cavity exposed to air is not a good thing, so if you are able to spot these holes in your teeth, make an appointment with your general dentist immediately.

#4 Stains or Spots

Another way to physically spot a cavity is to look for any kind of tooth discoloration. As they progress, they can become visible in the form of dark spots or white spots on your teeth. As with everything else on this list, if you notice any kind of discoloration, reach out to Dr. Hourigan as soon as you can.

#5 Bad Breath

As is the case with all types of decay, tooth decay allows bacteria to spread, and that can get pretty smelly. Dying things flat-out do not smell all that great, so ignoring tooth decay could lead to rather strong bouts of bad breath that will not go away, even for those that brush and use mouthwash regularly. Even if your bad breath ends up not being the result of a cavity, Dr. Hourigan can look into possible solutions to the problem, but it is a potential sign of tooth decay.

Getting a cavity is never convenient, nor is it especially pleasant, but having the issue corrected early in the process usually means an easier procedure. Furthermore, the sooner a patient has their cavities addressed, the sooner they can return to normal chewing and eating practices. The pain and sensitivity that sometimes come with cavities are very uncomfortable. If you experience that discomfort or any other sign of a cavity, have it addressed immediately.



We all know that sweets are bad for your teeth. But you may not be aware of why your mom and dentist always told you to avoid them and how these foods cause dental erosion and eventually cavities. The Chapel Hill general dentist explains:

How Cavities Form

Tooth enamel is made of minerals, and cavities are caused by a process known as demineralization. This occurs when the enamel on your tooth comes in contact with sweet foods and drinks. Waste products created by bacteria as it consumes these sugars contain the acids that cause demineralization. When these acids remain on the teeth they start producing tooth decay within minutes.

Most of us have experienced cavities, but left untreated over a long period of time, a simple cavity can result in the complete destruction of the tooth structure. With the increased consumption of soda, fruit juices and energy drinks, dentists today see an increase in the number of patients with dental erosion. While sugar is the most common cause of dental erosion, some other causes are:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Consuming acidic foods and drinks
  • Dry mouth or low saliva production
  • Acid reflux disease (GERD), or heartburn

Signs That a Cavity is Developing

If you experience sensitivity when eating hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks you may have dental erosion. Also, yellowing of the enamel indicates that it is thinning and exposing the yellow dentin beneath. Dental erosion can literally destroy your teeth over time if not addressed by your general dentist. If it reaches this point, tooth extraction and costly dental prosthetics may be necessary.

Please Call Us for An Appointment

Diligent oral hygiene habits and regular visits to your general dentist are the best defense against the destruction caused by dental erosion. Your  Chapel Hill general dentist is trained to detect signs of dental erosion and take the necessary steps to arrest and reverse its damage.

Please call us to arrange an appointment so we can make sure your oral health is protected.



Keeping all your teeth healthy and intact for a lifetime is not impossible if you follow a few simple steps!

We expect tooth loss in young children. In fact, we celebrate tooth loss with a visit from the tooth fairy! Of course, as an adult, tooth loss has a completely different impact on your life.

Many decades ago, tooth loss was considered normal as you aged. But today there is absolutely no reason to face unexpected tooth loss. Chapel Hill general dentist Dr. Diane Hourigan wants you to be fully educated about your dental health, so here are a few things to keep in mind if you want your teeth to last a lifetime.

5 Common Causes of Tooth Loss

There are many reasons why you might face unexpected tooth loss. Understanding the causes of tooth loss can increase your awareness about the state of your oral health and prevent problems that contribute to tooth loss.

Poor oral hygiene - If you don’t brush and floss daily, cavities and gum disease can occur, making tooth loss more likely. Our dentist recommends you brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. It is also advisable to visit your general dentist six months for check-ups and cleanings.

Poor nutrition - Foods that contain a lot of sugar, carbohydrates, and acids can damage your teeth and gums. Avoid a diet heavy with these types of foods to increase the longevity of your teeth.

Poor habits - Tooth grinding (bruxism) erodes and weakens your teeth over time. Severe grinding and clenching of the chaw can actually fracture a tooth. Smoking or chewing tobacco are two bad habits that aggravate gum disease that can ultimately lead to tooth loss.

Contact sports - Some kids, teenagers, or young adults play contact sports regularly. These include football, hockey, basketball, martial arts and so on. Wearing a mouth guard is very important to prevent trauma that can fracture or injure a tooth.

Dental Anxiety - Some people are so afraid of dental visits that they simply never go, even if they have a toothache. Avoiding dental visits is counterproductive because at some point you’re going to need dental work. At that point, you may be looking at much more complicated problems to fix.

We Can Help

If any of these situations apply to you, we encourage you to contact the Chapel Hill general dentist to arrange an appointment. We want you to enjoy the benefits of excellent oral health, and we can give you guidance on turning these bad habits around.