Cavity vs. Stain: Everything You Should Know

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People often get confused between a cavity and stains. A cavity or tooth decay is permanent damage on the surface or root of a tooth. If not treated on time, the tooth cavity can become more extensive and deeper and may create a hole in your tooth.

On the contrary, stains may look like cavities, but they tend to shrink or grow instead of steadily getting larger. If you properly brush your teeth, whiten your teeth, or consume a proper diet, statins may disappear.

However, it’s crucial to differentiate if it’s a stain or tooth cavity. When you notice such unusual signs on your teeth, consult your dentist as soon as possible to prevent the issue.

When discoloration affects an entire tooth, it is more likely a stain rather than a cavity. On the other hand, a single spot on a tooth or more teeth indicates a cavity, which might be brown, black, or gray.

Signs and symptoms

Typically Cavities have symptoms that do not occur with a tooth stain. Have a look at the unique symptoms while having a cavity.

  • Sensitivity – With tooth decay, one may experience tooth sensitivity (to hot or cold foods and drinks) around your affected area.
  • Toothache – while having a cavity, one will have mild to severe pain and discomfort, which is not the case with stains.Pain triggers when cavities cause inflammation in the pulp (nerve in the center of a tooth). Plus, the discomfort can spread to the jaw, cheek, or ear.
  • Holes in teeth. Cavities usually cause spots and visible holes in the affected teeth. The opening might start off small and then gradually become larger and deeper when the cavity is left untreated.

What causes tooth cavities and stains?

Causes tooth cavities

Poor oral hygiene is the primary reason for having tooth decay or cavities. A potential cause for cavities include:

  • Not brushing or flossing regularly
  • Dry mouth
  • Acid reflux
  • Frequently consuming sugary or acidic foods and drinks
  • Deficient fluoride

Causes of stains

Deposit from food and drinks is the most common cause of tooth stains. The stains may develop abruptly and seldom disappear quickly. You are more likely to have stains if you are consuming too many carbonated drinks, tea, coffee, wines, etc.

Plus, there are other causes of tooth stains such as;

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Too much fluoride consumed while teeth were developing may cause white spots on teeth.
  • Aging: enamel typically wears away with age, exposing yellow dentin beneath, and it looks like it has stains on the teeth.
  • The buildup of hardened plaque (tartar) on teeth causes stains
  • Certain medications, including antibiotics and antihypertensive medications, can cause teeth stains.

How to get rid of tooth stains and cavities

There are many options to remove stains and treat cavities. If you can take proper care on time, you can save your teeth in optimal health and improve the appearance of your smile.

Tooth stains treatment

  • Reduce or limit foods and drinks that stain teeth and prevent further discoloration.
  • Brush your teeth with proper technique at least two times a day. Proper brushing soon after meals, snacks, and after drinking dark-colored beverages helps to prevent tooth stains.
  • Go got whitening treatments. You can use over-the-counter whitening dental treatments, like whitening strips and whitening toothpaste, to remove surface stains.
  • Consider professional dental whitening treatments. For quick results, schedule an appointment with your dentist, who will make your teeth whiter as quickly as possible. Depending on the condition of stains, your dentist will suggest the best treatment to make your teeth brighter.
  • In-office treatments like dental bonding, veneers, or dental crowns can also help get rid of stains.

Cavity treatments

There are no at-home remedies for a tooth cavity. When you have tooth decay, you can only stop early by improving oral hygiene or limiting sugar food. However, dentist consultations and further treatments will be needed sooner or later.

Moreover, if you experience symptoms like pain, discomfort, holes in teeth, immediately consult your dentist to treat the cavity as early as possible.

The untreated cavity can worsen, creating more complications. Here are some of the dental treatments that your dentist may recommend;

  • Filling – the most common treatment for cavities involves removing the decay and filling the tooth with a resin. This process easily restores the shape and function of the affected tooth.
  • Dental crowns – when tooth structure is lost due to tooth decay, a crown is the perfect dental treatment. This includes fixing a cap over a damaged tooth to stop further decay.
  • Root canal – if a cavity is deep and causes nerve damage, a root canal is required to treat the affected tooth.

How to prevent tooth stains and cavities?

Preventing cavities or stains start with maintaining proper oral hygiene. When you brush your teeth with proper techniques at least for 2-3 minutes, you are preventing all major dental problems, including tooth decay and stains. Other than that;

  • Floss your teeth daily
  • Limit sugary or carbonated food and beverages
  • Visit regular dental checkups
  • Do not overlook any unusual signs of oral health

Overall, getting the proper treatment on time is essential for dental issues like tooth decay or stains. TruCare Dentistry offers comprehensive dental care for all types of oral health issues. Whether you need to treat your cavity or remove stains, we can help. Schedule an appointment with us to keep your oral health intact.


Can stains be mistaken for cavity?

Yes, a tooth stain can be mistaken for a cavity because both can look similar. However, a cavity can also cause a tooth stain. It is better to get a checkup done by a professional dentist to determine the root cause of tooth stains. If a cavity is detected, you may need dental treatment to fix it.

Can I wait 6 months to fill a cavity?

On average, it can take around 6 months to 4 years before a cavity needs treatment. However, it is advisable to go for a regular dental examination. During these exams, your dentist will be able to determine the early signs of cavity and tooth decay. Accordingly, he will guide you in the right manner to combat cavities. 

Why am I getting cavities all of a sudden?

Some of the key reasons that can trigger cavities all of a sudden include changes in daily routine, stress, eating more sugary foods, not enough brushing and flossing, a sore throat, gum recession, chemotherapy treatment, braces, etc. It is important to find out the root cause so that you can get the right treatment at the right time before it gets too late. 

How can I fix cavities naturally?

The beginning stages of a cavity can be treated at home by taking the necessary steps toward good oral hygiene. Good dental hygiene habits include daily brushing and flushing, exposure to fluoride, and regular dental checkups. 

What do early stages of tooth decay look like?

It is important to note that the signs and symptoms of tooth decay may vary depending on their extent and location. Detecting a cavity in the early stage is quite difficult as you may not have any symptoms at all. As the tooth decay becomes larger, you may experience a toothache, tooth sensitivity, mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something, visible holes, and various other signs. The best way to detect the early stages of tooth decay is to have regular dental checkups. 

TruCare Dentistry offers comprehensive dental care for all types of oral health issues. Whether you need to treat your cavity or remove stains, we can help. Schedule an appointment with us to keep your oral health intact.