When problems in the mouth begin, it can be difficult to detect them. That’s because signs of tooth decay vary depending on how serious it is, and where it originates in the mouth. During the early stages of tooth decay, symptoms may not be noticeable. As areas of tooth decay develop and become more pronounced, symptoms can worsen and may present as one or more of these:

Sensitive Teeth

If you experience tooth sensitivity when you eat or drink something that is very cold or hot, it could be one of the signs of tooth decay. Your pain might range from occasional minor discomfort to more frequent or severe. If what you happen to be eating or drinking is very sweet, hot, cold or acidic, the likelihood of unpleasant sensations can increase or worsen.

Holes in Teeth

One of the most obvious signs of tooth decay is a hole in the tooth itself.


A mild or severe shooting pain when you bite down into a piece of food, or just clamp your teeth together with nothing between them, can indicate tooth decay is present. Have it checked out.


Tooth decay can appear as brown or black stains on the lighter enamel of teeth. These may be discolorations from other phenomena, but it’s worth seeing what a dentist says.


If you are visiting your dentist every half-year or so, it may be a routine x-ray that reveals signs of tooth decay. Maybe you didn’t find any holes, or even feel any pain (mild or severe). That’s why it’s so important to have a regular check-up. You might be missing a sign that only a dentist will catch.

Did you know, if found early enough, you can sometimes reverse certain tooth decay by brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and rinsing with a fluoride-containing mouthwash such as LISTERINE ULTRACLEAN® ENAMEL PROTECTION or LISTERINE TOTAL CARE® ? This repeated practice can help re-mineralize tooth enamel.