Although early tooth decay normally causes no symptoms, signs of more advanced tooth decay may include a toothache, visible holes in the teeth, pain when biting down, tooth sensitivity and staining of the teeth, according to Mayo Clinic. Patients may also experience pain when consuming sweet, hot or cold foods and drinks.
Patients who experience symptoms such as a toothache should make an appointment with a dentist immediately, but even those who have no symptoms should schedule regular dental checkups to treat tooth decay before it becomes a problem, encourages Mayo Clinic. If the decay progresses to a cavity or an infected tooth, other symptoms may include foul breath, a bad taste in the mouth or swelling around the sensitive tooth, states WebMD. The tooth may also feature brown, black, gray or white stains.
The dentist uses a probing tool, a mirror and X-rays to diagnose tooth decay, and treatment depends on the extent of the decay, according to WebMD. While mild decay may be stopped through good brushing habits and fluoride treatments, fillings are generally required for cavities. A severely damaged tooth may require extraction or a manmade crown, and an infected tooth normally requires a root canal. Patients can relieve pain and swelling using an ice pack and over-the-counter pain relievers.