Is it a Cavity or a Stain? | Here’s What Sets Them Apart

October 15, 2022

Usually, when people notice a spot on their teeth, they start brushing away, thinking it’s nothing more than a fleck of leftover food. Only when it doesn’t come off does the fear settle in; is it a cavity or a stain? Why won’t the stubborn spot go away?

You’ve probably had a cavity at least once in your life or heard of someone else getting it. But if not, don’t worry. In this blog, we’ll tell you exactly how to differentiate between a cavity vs. a stain, so make sure to read on ahead.

What is a Cavity?

A cavity, or dental caries, forms when bacteria nestle around your teeth, slowly chipping away at the tooth’s enamel.

The enamel, on the other hand, is the outer layer of a tooth. It’s what keeps your pearly whites radiant and strong, protecting the dentin and pulp along the way. Thus, when the bacteria chomp through that protective barrier, it leaves the insides of your teeth extremely vulnerable.

Although having bacteria in your mouth isn’t uncommon, it’s the harmful ones you need to watch out for. When you eat foods that have high starch and sugar levels, it leads to harmful bacteria. Thus when they linger in the mouth for too long, it can cause plaque buildup, essentially becoming the reason for dental cavities to take root.

What is a Stain?

A stain is the furthest thing from a cavity. Not only is it harmless, but it can easily be removed or covered up. Usually, foods with strong dyes or food coloring can stain your teeth, such as a tomato and coffee.

Stains are nothing more than a result of discoloration. They might pop up on the corner of a tooth or, sometimes, cover the entire surface of it. Nevertheless, when you forget to brush your teeth and ignore your oral hygiene, it can cause the stain to get worse.

Mainly there are two types of stains you should know about:

  • Extrinsic — These stains are mere blotches on the enamel layer of your teeth. They’re super easy when it comes to removing them since they’re not permanent.
  • Intrinsic — A little on the stubborn side, intrinsic stains develop in the middle of the tooth (the dentin) and are pretty much hard to get rid of.

Cavity vs. Stain: How to Tell Them Apart

Now that you know the main difference between a cavity and a stain, it’s time to identify the splotch on your teeth. What is it, and how can you tell it apart?

Well, for starters, look at the color of the blemish. Is it white, yellow, brown, or black? See if it changes color over time.

Next, pay attention to its placement. Is it on the corner of one tooth, or is it smack-dab in the middle, progressively getting worse?

Tooth sensitivity also plays a major role, so make sure to look out for that. Either way, it’s best to visit your dentist for an accurate diagnosis.

Cavity vs. Stain: What Causes Them?

Many factors come into play for a cavity and stain to develop. However, the biggest cause of all is neglecting your oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth correctly with a soft-bristled toothbrush and flossing daily is crucial.

Not to mention, an improper diet, excessive smoking, dehydration, lack of fluoride, etc., are some of the reasons that can lead to a cavity or a stain.

Treatment Options

If you’re trying to find a way to treat your cavity or stain, it’s best to visit your dentist. Chances are, they’ll suggest either of the following treatments:

Bottom Line

In conclusion, differentiating between a cavity vs. a stain isn’t as easy. But you know what is? Taking care of your dental hygiene and paying your dentist a visit every six months. Nonetheless, for more information, contact Briar Forest Dental Clinic today at (713) 784-4430.

We are proud to serve patients from all nearby communities, including Briar Forest, The Memorial Villages, Memorial City, Westchase, and Walnut Bend.


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