Dentist Digest Monthly: Explaining The Stages Of Tooth Decay

Dentist Digest Monthly - Explaining The Stages Of Tooth Decay
It can seem like your teeth go from healthy and fine to in pain and in need of dental intervention without any warning. But there are actually many stages of tooth decay. The sooner the tooth decay is addressed, the fewer complications you will have when working with our dentists here at Bridge Creek Dental.

To help you identify the signs and symptoms of a nascent cavity sooner, below are the six stages of tooth decay.

First Stage: White Spots Appear

Initially, the first sign of tooth decay will appear as white spots on your teeth. These white spots show up as your teeth become demineralized due to bacteria eating leftover food particles and excreting acid on your teeth. As your tooth loses calcium in spots, the chalky white spots will keep showing up, and dental plaque will be faster to build up.

At this stage, you might be able to reverse the problem. Spending more time and attention to your daily oral care can help, as well as using high concentration fluoride toothpaste. The fluoride in the toothpaste can help remineralize your teeth, and there are topical fluoride treatments that our dentists can provide.

Second Stage: Tooth Enamel Breaks Down

Your tooth’s first layer of defense is the hard enamel layer. However, the demineralization compromises the integrity of the enamel. So, in the second stage of tooth decay, the enamel starts to break down, creating small cavities. These tiny cavities aren’t always large enough to be addressed by a dentist, but it leaves weak spots on your teeth.

Once the enamel breaks down enough to form a full cavity, it should be quickly addressed by a dentist. Otherwise, the weakness in your tooth can lead to future breakage, especially if you grind your teeth, which also stresses the surface of your teeth.

Third Stage: Dentin Layer Breached

If tooth decay is allowed to progress, it will breach the next layer of the tooth under the enamel, which is the dentin. This layer is yellow in color, which is why teeth with thin enamel will look yellowish. While you can correct the yellow color with cosmetic dentistry, you should ensure that your teeth are healthy before embarking on any cosmetic dentistry.

At this stage, you will likely feel more dental pain, as the dentin is more sensitive than your enamel layer. A dental filling will be needed to correct the tooth decay.

Fourth Stage: Infection Reaches Tooth Pulp

Under the protective layers of enamel and dentin is the tooth pulp. This area of the tooth is where the nerves and blood vessels of the tooth are located. When the infection reaches this part of your tooth, the bacteria can kill both the blood vessels and nerves. The process isn’t instantaneous, and it is generally pretty painful.

Once your tooth reaches this stage of tooth decay, a root canal is needed to clean out the infection. The root canal will be followed up by a dental crown, as the tooth structure will have become severely compromised.

Fifth Stage: Dental Abscess Forms

If you manage to put up with the pain of having your dental pulp infected, the bacterial infection can travel throughout your tooth and exit through the root of your tooth. At or near the root, a pocket of infection can form, which creates a dental abscess.

Dental abscesses are incredibly painful and can put the nearby teeth and jawbone at risk of infection, as the bacteria can spread from the abscess. In some rare cases, the infection can enter the bloodstream for fatal consequences. Along with needing a root canal and crown, you may need oral surgery to have the abscess drained.

Sixth Stage: Tooth Loss

After the decay has killed all the nerves and blood vessels in your tooth—and likely has destroyed the majority of the tooth structure—tooth loss is the final step. The decayed tooth will need to be extracted, and it is likely that the nearby teeth will need dental attention, as tooth decay tends to spread to the neighboring teeth.

At this point, dental replacements will need to be considered. There are a number of options, from dental bridges to dental implants to replace the tooth. However, it is best if you never reach this stage of tooth decay.

Prevent Tooth Decay With Dentists In Billings, MT

Prevention of tooth decay starts at home with twice-daily tooth brushing and nightly flossing. You should also be visiting the dentist for dental cleanings on a twice-a-year basis. If you live in Billing, MT, you and the whole family can always come to Bridge Creek Dental for all your dental care needs.

So, if you are ready to come in for your biannual dental cleaning, feel free to contact us today to set up your appointment! We are ready to help keep your smile happy and cavity-free!

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