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Your Dentist Explains the Five Stages of Tooth Decay

June 4, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — dr_vanderbrook @ 8:36 pm

A woman holding a picture of an unhealthy smile over her face.If you think that tooth decay only appears when you feel yourself in pain, you need to read this post from your dentist. Tooth decay is a multi-staged process that takes a long period of time to fully develop. Each stage is distinctive, especially the first stage. If you catch the early signs of decay, either at home or during your dental visit, there’s still a chance to prevent damage and disease before it occurs.

Let’s take a closer look at the five stages.

Stage One: White Spots

White spots on the visible surfaces of teeth are an indicator that demineralization is occurring. This process is directly related to the sugars and acids attacking your enamel. Luckily, making adjustments to your at-home oral care routine and visiting your dentist can restore and reverse this process. If any cavities are present, they can be treated without needing to make significant changes to the tooth.

Stage Two: Decayed Enamel

At this point, bacteria is almost done breaking through the surface enamel. As teeth erode, the underside goes first, meaning the outer enamel will be intact by this stage. Eventually, decay will break through the enamel and form a cavity. This requires a filling to be placed to prevent further damage.

Stage Three: Decayed Dentin

The dentin layer sits just behind the enamel and carries a naturally yellow appearance. At stage three, the enamel will have worn down enough to where this layer becomes more visible. You may also start to notice more tooth sensitivity or even pain. If you weren’t aware of tooth decay, you likely are now, especially if you consume hot or cold foods and beverages on a daily basis. Dental fillings can still be used to prevent further damage, but it’s likely they’ll be larger and more extensive.

Stage Four: Decay Reaches the Pulp

The pulp contains multiple nerve endings, so if decay reaches this layer, you’ll start feeling significantly more pain and discomfort. When decay reaches the pulp, the only treatment that can help you is a root canal. This requires more invasive measures to clean and restore the center of the tooth.

Furthermore, decay that reaches the pulp is considered a dental emergency and needs to be examined and treated by a dentist right away.

Stage Five: Infection

In the final stage of tooth decay, the infection will have reached the tip of the tooth’s root and exited out the bottom of the tooth’s structure. This leads to damage of the bone and surrounding tissues and is accompanied by swelling, extreme pain, and chronic bad breath. If an abscess develops underneath your tooth’s root, it can be fatal. A root canal or extraction needs to be performed immediately at this stage.

Tooth decay is easily preventable with at-home care and dental visits every six months. Schedule an appointment with your dentist today to make sure that no early signs of decay are present!

About the Author

Dr. Drew Vanderbrook earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Baylor College of Dentistry. He keeps his skills sharp through continuing education and recently received his Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry. To learn more about his preventive treatments or practice, contact him through his website.

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