Broken Tooth - A Common Dental Emergency

Understanding the 5 stages of tooth decay

Tooth decay is one of the most common causes of tooth pain. It is easy to manage and much easier and cheaper to treat in its early stages. Some forms of tooth decay can be prevented and treated by visiting your dental professional for regular checkups and maintaining healthy oral care. Understanding how a cavity progresses can assist you in preventing each sequential stage from occurring. We have outlined the 5 stages of tooth decay below so that you can identify and understand tooth decay and as a result, prevent it.

  1. Stage One: White Spots

In stage one, the tooth begins to show signs of strain from the attack of sugars and acids, and chalky white areas on the surface of the tooth appear due to the loss of calcium and build-up of plaque. White spots will begin to materialise just below the surface of the enamel. The build-up of these acids causes tooth enamel to deteriorate (demineralisation of the tooth surface). Tooth decay, at this stage, might still be reversible with the proper treatment and discussion with your dental professional– such as using appropriate brushing technique, a fluoride toothpaste, and applying a topical fluoride treatment. Of course, a dental examination is designed to identify such cavities so regular check-ups are essential.

  1. Stage Two: Enamel Decay

At stage two, the enamel starts breaking underneath the tooth’s surface. At this stage there is no turning back as the natural remineralisation process is unable to restore the proper enamel and minerals, causing a lesion to form within the tooth. Once the cavity breaks through the surface of the enamel you will need to seek dental attention immediately.

  1. Stage Three: Dentin Decay

Stage three of tooth decay is also known as dentin decay. If left untreated, bacteria and acids will continue to dissolve the enamel and the lesion risks reaching the dentin (the part of the tooth that exists in between the enamel and the pulp). If a cavity were to progress untreated beyond stage two, you would become aware of it now because the level of pain will begin to intensify, and a sharp pain may be experienced in the infected tooth. At this point, a dental filling will most likely be needed to restore the tooth and possibly prevent the cavity from reaching the tooth’s most serious component: the pulp.

  1. Stage Four: Involvement of The Pulp

Once the cavity reaches the pulp or the tooth’s centre, it’s going to cause a great deal of pain. If the pulp of a tooth gets infected with bacteria, pus then forms which inadvertently kills the blood vessels and nerves in the tooth. Stage four is serious, and root canal is the most common course of treatment at this stage.

  1. Stage Five: Abscess Formation

Abscess formation is the final stage of tooth decay and subsequently the most painful. Once the infection has reached the tip of the root and exited the tip of the tooth’s structure the surrounding tissues and possibly the bone structure risk infection. Swelling would be common and the pain can be severe. Root canal or extraction would be treatment course should decay reach this stage.

Early intervention is always advisable this is especially true when it comes to tooth decay. Looking after your teeth and gums can help prevent many problems in the future, such as cavities and receding gums, so the earlier you start with proper dental care and good oral hygiene the better. Remember the adage, “Prevention is better than cure”, so get in touch today and organise an appointment with one of our team of professionals.

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