Cavity vs. Tooth Stain - Difference & How to Tell
Health Care,  Body System

Cavity vs. Tooth Stain – Difference & How to Tell

Read Time:10 Minute, 7 Second

Are you unsure whether you have a cavity or merely a stain on your tooth? In the early stages, it can be difficult to distinguish between stains and cavities.

Cavities cannot be reversed, but teeth stains can. Your dental team must treat cavities and tooth stains, which are typically brought on by particular foods, drinks, or lifestyle choices.

The distinctions between stain and cavity are highlighted in this article. It will describe how to recognize a cavity, what causes teeth stains, and the appropriate course of action for each.

What is a Cavity?

Cavity vs. Tooth Stain - Difference & How to Tell

When the enamel on your teeth starts to deteriorate, it leads to a cavity, also known as tooth decay. In essence, it’s a tiny gap in your tooth. It might appear to be a tiny white spot at first. It might eventually grow into a bigger gray, brown, or black opening, though.

Plaque, or the gummy film that builds up on your teeth and gums, is what causes cavities. Your food’s sugar is consumed by the bacteria in plaque, which then releases acids that eat away at your teeth’s enamel.

Read More: Can Cavities Cause Headaches

The middle and interior of your tooth may eventually be affected if the damage is not immediately repaired. You may feel sensitivity and pain if you have a cavity because the nerve endings in your tooth are inside the tooth. Later on, tooth decay might even call for a root canal.

What Causes a Cavity?

Too much sugar consumption and poor oral hygiene are the two main factors that contribute to tooth decay.

The sugar in sweet and starchy foods is a food source for the bacteria that are found in plaque, which helps them grow. Additionally, the bacteria release an acid that erodes tooth enamel as they consume the sugar. This erosion is the first sign of tooth decay, which, if left untreated, can spread into the inner and middle layers of the tooth.

Brushing and flossing on a regular basis is one of the best ways to stop tooth decay. Plaque can be removed from your teeth and gums by brushing, but it can also be removed from between the teeth by flossing. The recommendation to brush and floss twice a day is one that is frequently disregarded by Americans, which can result in plaque buildup, new cavities, or worsening of pre-existing tooth decay.

Your genetics may have a small impact on how likely you are to develop cavities. Your genes, for instance, affect how your teeth grow and how well your enamel resists bacteria. Following a regular oral hygiene routine, however, will help you avoid tooth decay even in this scenario.

What is a Stain?

Cavity vs. Tooth Stain - Difference & How to Tell

Contrary to cavities, stains frequently don’t indicate tooth decay and—in many cases—don’t warrant concern. Dental stains are simply the discoloration of your teeth. You might detect a slight stain on one area of your tooth or a color change throughout.

Intrinsic and extrinsic stains on teeth can be roughly divided into two categories. Extrinsic stains are discolorations in the enamel, the tooth’s outermost layer. The middle layer of the tooth, known as the dentin, is affected by intrinsic stains, on the other hand. The latter is typically more long-lasting and less susceptible to home remedies.

Read More: How to Whiten Dentures and Remove Stains

What Causes a Stain?

A staining agent that you’ve come into contact with causes extrinsic staining to happen. This covers popular foods and beverages like coffee, tea, red wine, and even some berries. Due to the nicotine, tar, and tobacco that are present in most cigarettes, smoking can also cause tooth stains.

The dentin, the middle layer of your tooth, is where intrinsic staining takes place. More deeply rooted and less affected by your lifestyle choices is this kind of discoloration. This kind of discoloration can be brought on by dental fluorosis, which develops as a result of consuming too much fluoride, or demineralization, a process in which your teeth lose important minerals. Tetracycline antibiotic use has also been connected to tooth discoloration in pregnant women.

Additionally, teeth discoloration may be influenced by aging. The dentin, the middle layer of your teeth, will become more apparent as your enamel thins out. Due to the fact that dentin is naturally yellow, this procedure could eventually make your teeth appear less white.

Read More: How Long Will Dentures Last

How to Tell the Difference Between a Tooth Stain and a Cavity

As they progress, stains and cavities on your teeth frequently resemble one another. Cavities frequently get deeper and bigger over time. As opposed to stains, which can change in size and shape depending on external factors.

The primary distinction between the two is that while stains are typically temporary and only affect your teeth’s appearance, cavities cause permanent damage to your teeth. Examining your symptoms and the state of your teeth will help you distinguish between stains and cavities.


Only visible stains on your teeth can be seen. They don’t cause any additional signs or discomfort or have any negative effects on your teeth’s health or functionality. On the other hand, tooth cavities typically have symptoms.

Contrarily, not everyone who develops cavities exhibits symptoms, which is why some people might mistake a cavity for a stain. Cavities between teeth or in the crevices of your teeth can be difficult to detect or feel. as opposed to a cavity that forms in a molar tooth that is frequently used for chewing food.

Visit your dentist for a full check up if you have any of the below symptoms of a cavity:

  • Sensitivity, tooth pain or nerve pain
  • Discomfort when biting
  • Sudden toothache or pain
  • Pain when consuming sweet, hot or cold foods and drinks
  • Consistent pain (can move upwards to the jaw and ears)
  • Bad breath or taste in your mouth
  • Bleeding or swollen gums


Teeth with stains, holes, pits, or dents are the targets of tooth decay. While stains can affect an entire tooth or group of teeth, they tend to be more evenly distributed across your teeth.

Stains and cavities can both be white, brown, or black, and they both have similar color characteristics. Grey marks typically denote the development of a cavity, while white marks typically indicate the beginning of a cavity. Yellow marks, however, are typically stains or discolorations brought on by food particles or tobacco use.


Not sure if it’s a cavity or a stain on your teeth? Between dentist appointments, examine your own teeth regularly by yourself or with the help of another to:

  • Keep track of any changes in appearance on all surfaces of your teeth
  • Touch darkened areas with slight pressure to see if there is pain or sensitivity
  • Bite on or into something harder like an apple to test for pain
  • Run your tongue over the surface of your teeth to check for holes
  • Test if you feel a difference when you consume hot of cold foods and drinks
  • Check your mouth and head in the mirror for any marks, especially on the surfaces of your molars and incisors, which are used for biting and chewing. Use a flashlight if you need or ask someone to look inside your mouth and take a photo
  • Check your breath or taste in your mouth for foul indications of tooth decay


Tooth Stains Treatment

  • Reduce or limit foods and drinks that stain teeth and prevent further discoloration.
  • Use the right technique to brush your teeth at least twice per day. Proper brushing soon after meals, snacks, and after drinking dark-colored beverages helps to prevent tooth stains.
  • Get whitening procedures right away. You can use over-the-counter whitening dental treatments, like whitening strips and whitening toothpaste, to remove surface stains.
  • Take into account professional teeth whitening procedures. Make an appointment with your dentist, who will whiten your teeth as quickly as possible, for quick results. Your dentist will advise the most effective course of action for whitening your teeth based on the severity of the stains.
  • Stains can also be removed with in-office procedures like dental bonding, veneers, or crowns.

Read More: How Often Should I Use Whitening Strips

Cavity Treatments

For a tooth cavity, there is no home remedy. Only better oral hygiene or cutting back on sugary foods will help you stop tooth decay in its tracks. However, sooner or later additional dental care will be required, including consultations.

A cavity should also be treated as soon as possible if you experience symptoms like pain, discomfort, or holes in your teeth.

If the cavity is not treated, it could get worse and cause more problems. 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. The affected tooth’s shape and functionality are easily restored through this process.
  • Dental crowns – when tooth structure is lost due to tooth decay, a crown is the perfect dental treatment. In order to stop further decay, this also entails repairing a cap over a damaged tooth.
  • 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 Stain and a Cavity?

When it comes to maintaining good oral health, prevention is always preferable to treatment. Maintaining your teeth and gums is essential if you want to have them for the rest of your life. You should ideally visit your dentist for a cleaning and checkup every six months in addition to practicing good oral hygiene. This is essential for avoiding both minor and serious dental issues.


What you eat or how you clean your teeth will determine whether or not you develop stains or tooth discoloration. Keep your teeth looking white and stain-free by:

  • Brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day for least 2-3 minutes, ideally after meals
  • Remove surface stains with whitening toothpaste
  • avoiding foods and beverages that stain your teeth, such as coffee, red wine, and soda, is recommended. sugary, acidic and dark in colour
  • Drinking water or rinsing out your mouth after eating or drinking
  • Quitting smoking and use of other tobacco


When treated early, before it worsens and leaves a permanent cavity, tooth decay is both preventable and reversible. Protect your teeth against tooth decay and cavities by making sure to:

  • Brush your teeth and floss twice a day for at least 2-3 minutes
  • Use fluoride toothpaste
  • Drink water or rinse your mouth after consuming food and beverages
  • Limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks
  • Drink 1-2L of water daily
  • Try using an antimicrobial mouthwash after brushing your teeth
  • Eat nutritious foods with zinc and calcium to protect your tooth enamel
  • Keep up fluoride treatments
  • Don’t overlook signs of a cavity or tooth decay – visit your dentist ASAP

Read More: What Causes Calcium Deposits on Teeth


Overall, it may appear on the surface that stains and cavities are similar. But it’s crucial to understand the differences between the two and how to handle each problem as it arises.

Depending on whether you have a stain or a cavity, you can either start working on whitening the stain yourself or make a trip to the dentist.


How Do You Tell If You Have a Cavity Or Stain?

Brown spots can show up on your teeth from both stains and cavities. While cavities hurt, stains don’t. Teeth sensitivity, holes, or stains in the white, grey, or black parts of the teeth are telltale signs of a cavity.

Do Teeth Stains Turn into Cavities?

A cavity or tooth decay is long-lasting harm to a tooth’s crown or root. A hole could form in your tooth if the cavity is not treated in a timely manner and has the potential to grow larger and deeper. Stains, on the other hand, often grow or shrink rather than gradually enlarging, despite the fact that they may appear to be cavities.

Does Discoloration on Teeth Mean Cavities?

It’s probably a stain if a tooth (or several teeth) appears to be completely discolored. But if you see a tiny spot of discoloration on your tooth, there’s a good chance you have a cavity.

Average Rating

5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.