What are the Stages of Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is a major reason for tooth-related complaints and discomfort. It can bring about serious pain and can quickly lead to permanent tooth loss in adults. The problem has the potential to interfere with your normal, everyday activities like eating and talking. This condition in most cases can be prevented if you care for your teeth properly and go in for an annual examination.
Dr. Stout, a Charlotte, NC dentist, educates patients about the many ways prevent tooth enamel deterioration in order to prevent tooth decay. Refraining from consuming certain foods like sugary or acidic food and drinks, along with brushing daily with a fluoride toothpaste which helps to prevent cavities. Cavity prevention is the #1 way to avoid early tooth decay.
The number of stages of tooth decay can vary from four to six; however this article will focus on the agreed upon 5 stages.
1. White Spots
One of the early stages, or signs of possible decay is the appearance of spots on the surface of the tooth. These spots are usually white in color, but may also appear yellowish. They are referred to as white spot lesions and is the first visible sign of enamel deterioration.
These spots indicate demineralization of the enamel and plaque buildup. Bacteria accumulate in plaque, metabolizing sugars from your foods to produce acids, and your teeth lose calcium. The loss of minerals will continue, and the lesions can turn brown as a result. It is possible to prevent the formation of the cavity at this stage, with proper treatment.
2. Enamel Decay
At this stage, the surface of your teeth may still look okay, but the destruction of the enamel has started underneath. The areas near affected teeth may change color and become slightly soft to the touch.
Failure to take steps to improve oral hygiene can lead to the surface of the tooth being broken. Caries or cavities then become more noticeable.
Once things get to this point, any damage is irreversible. Cleaning and filling are usually the only treatment options available for correcting enamel decay.
3. Dentin Decay
Dentin refers to the layer surrounding the pulp. The decay spreads to it at this third stage. A combination of bacteria and acids cause the decay goes through the enamel. When this happens, the dentinal tubules become exposed. You may then start to experience pain because these structures have passages to tooth nerves.
The pain will usually be more noticeable when you take sweet foods or expose your teeth to heat or cold. Your tooth becomes so weak that it can collapse or fracture suddenly with regular chewing forces. It is still possible for a dental professional to restore the affected tooth with a filling. Make an appointment to visit your dentist in Charlotte, NC for treatment and prevention.
4. Involvement of the Pulp
The decay extends to the innermost part of your tooth known as the pulp. The pain that you experience will intensify when this occurs because this part contains nerves and blood vessels. In the dentin are cells, known as odontoblasts, which produce the dentin.
When bacteria spread to the pulp, pus forms. This can lead to the death of blood vessels and nerves in the affected tooth. The tooth may become very tender and will lose sensitivity to heat and cold.
The only proven treatment that can help to treat the decay at this point is root canal therapy.
5. Abscess Formation
This is the stage where the bacteria infection gets to the tooth’s root tip. The infection can also spread to surrounding bones and tissues. This makes the abscess formation stage arguably the most painful. The severe pain can interfere with your sleep cycles.
In addition, patients may experience swelling of the tongue and gums. This can lead to a speech impediment. It may also increase your risk for other disorders.
You may be prescribed pain relievers and antibiotics to deal with the symptoms. An oral procedure is not to be avoidable at this stage. Tooth decay finally culminates into tooth loss.
The earlier you suspect tooth decay and commence treatment, the better. Damage done during the later stages is irreversible.
Our Eastover Dental Practice
is conveniently located in Charlotte NC.
If you have been experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article it may be time to see Dr. Stout. Schedule an appointment with Stout Dentistry. Give us a call today at 704.332.7737.