The 5 Stages of Toothy Decay: How to Identify & Address It

The 5 Stages of Toothy Decay: How to Identify & Address It
September 1, 2022

Do you have an intense toothache that will not go away or persistent tooth sensitivity that shows up every time you sip your favorite coffee or enjoy some amazing ice cream? If so, you may not know this, but you probably have tooth decay.

Tooth decay is one of the leading dental issues that millions of people face globally. It is a dental issue that, if left unchecked, can negatively impact and affect both your smile and overall oral health.

But what exactly is tooth decay, and how can you stop tooth decay? Let’s take a closer look at tooth decay, its stages, and how to address this dental issue.

What Is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay can be described as the damage to your teeth due to acidic erosion brought about by the bacteria found in plaque. These damages over time may lead to the formation of cavities, tooth abscesses, and eventually tooth loss.

When you fail to practice proper oral hygiene, plaque builds up on your teeth. The bacteria found in plaque churn sugar in the food you eat into an acidic compound that damages your teeth and brings about tooth decay.

Tooth decay is a preventable dental issue. Ensuring that you regularly visit our dentist in Paso Robles, CA, for a professional cleaning during your checkup and practicing proper oral hygiene are among the best ways to keep tooth decay at bay.

Tooth decay is progressive and, if left unresolved, can lead to irreversible damage and loss of teeth.

The Stages of Tooth Decay

As we have mentioned earlier on, tooth decay progresses over time. It occurs in various stages, 5 to be precise. Here is a detailed look at the 5 phases of tooth decay:

    1. Demineralization

Our teeth have an outer layer known as the enamel. The enamel is the hardest substance in the human body; this is why our teeth can handle all the pressure and force generated whenever we chew or even last us an entire lifetime if we take good care of them.

As strong as enamel is, it cannot withstand acidic erosion. When exposed continuously to the acid produced by the bacteria found in plaque, it begins to lose some of its mineral compounds and weaken. This leads to the formation of white spots on the affected teeth.

This process is known as demineralization and is regarded as the first stage of tooth decay.

    1. Enamel Decay

If your enamel is exposed to acidic erosion after demineralization, the white spots formed earlier will begin taking on a brown hue, indicating enamel decay.

Enamel decay can lead to the formation of cavities. Cavities compromise the tooth’s structural integrity, and to prevent further damage; you will have to visit our dentist to get a filling.

    1. Dentin Decay

Dentin is the layer found underneath the enamel. If the cavities formed initially are not treated, the dentin will be left exposed to damage. The dentin layer is softer than the exterior enamel layer, so its decay will progress faster.

Dentin decay is marked by tooth sensitivity experienced when you take cold or hot drinks or during meals.

    1. Pulp Damage

The pulp is the innermost section of your tooth containing the nerves and blood vessels. When it is damaged due to tooth decay, it can be infected and inflamed, leading to serious pain.

    1. Abscess

Over time pulp damage can mutate into pulp necrosis. This develops as tooth decay advances in the pulp. The pulp becomes infected and inflamed, forming a pus pocket at the bottom of the affected tooth known as an abscess.

An abscess infection can cause a fever and a persistent toothache and sensitivity; if left unchecked, the infection can spread to the surrounding head and neck tissues.

An abscess is life-threatening and needs immediate medical attention, which may include rushing to see our weekend dentist in Paso Robles. At this stage, if a root canal cannot work, you may be forced to undergo an extraction.

How to Identify Tooth Decay

The following symptoms can indicate tooth decay:

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Persistent toothaches
  • Brown or white stains on the teeth
  • Visible holes on the teeth
  • Foul breath
  • Swollen or irritated gums
  • Bleeding gums

How to Address Tooth Decay

Several treatments are available based on how your tooth decay has advanced. These treatment options may include:

  • Fluoride treatments-This is effective at the first stage of tooth decay- enamel decay. You can also opt to use fluoride-infused toothpaste or mouth wash. Fluoride will help replenish the eroded enamel and prevent cavity formation
  • Fillings- These can be used to treat cavities and prevent further damages
  • Crowns- become effective when the cavities formed due to decay are large and compromise the structural integrity of the tooth
  • Root canals -This treatment option is viable during the fourth phase of decay. The damaged pulp can be eradicated to prevent the occurrence of infections
  • Extractions- This is the last option if a root canal cannot work and the decay is extensive

Contact us today at Vineyard Dental & Orthodontics for tooth decay prevention and treatment.