How do I know if I have a cavity?

Your dentist can discover cavities during your regular dental check-up. The tooth surface feels soft when probed by your dentist with a dental instrument. X-rays can also show cavities before they become visible to the eye.

In advanced stages of tooth decay, you might experience a toothache, especially after consuming sweet, hot, or cold foods or drinks. Other signs of tooth decay are visible pits or holes in the teeth.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/02/2017.


  • Mouth Healthy. American Dental Association. Decay Accessed 6/1/2017.
  • Klein U. Chapter 16. Oral Medicine & Dentistry. In: Way WW, Hay WW, Levin MJ, Sondheimer JM, Deterding RR, eds. CURRENT Diagnosis & Treatment: Pediatrics. 20th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2011.
  • US Department of Health and Human Services. Take Care of Your Child’s Teeth. Accessed 6/1/2017.
  • American Academy of Family Physicians. Dental Hygiene: How to Care for Your Child's Teeth Accessed 6/1/2017.

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