Did you know there are five distinct stages of tooth decay?
Understanding how a cavity progresses can assist you in preventing each successive stage from occurring in your mouth.
- Stage One: White Spots
In stage one, the tooth begins to show signs of strain from the attack of sugars and acids, and white spots will begin to materialize just below the surface of the enamel. These white spots are representative of the demineralization of the tooth and can be easy to miss because they’re likely to occur on your molars. A dental exam, of course, is designed to catch such cavities! Can you see why regular visits to the dentist are recommended? In some case, at this stage, the cavity can be repaired without the need to excavate the tooth.
- Stage Two: Enamel Decay
Stage two marks the beginning of the end for the surface enamel that is being attacked. Initially, the tooth erodes from the underside outward, so the outer enamel will still be intact for the first half of this second stage. Once the cavity breaks through the surface of the enamel, there is no turning back, and you will need to have the cavity corrected with a filling.
- Stage Three: Dentin Decay
If a cavity in your mouth were to progress beyond stage two without you knowing, you’d tend to become aware of it when it started to hit stage three because it would probably start to cause some pain. At this level, the cavity begins to eat away at the second level of tooth material that lies beneath the enamel: the dentin. A filling can still be used to stop the onslaught of bacteria assaulting the tooth in order to prevent the cavity from reaching the tooth’s most critical component: the pulp.
- Stage Four: Involvement of The Pulp
Once the cavity reaches the pulp, it’s going to hurt. A lot. Stage four is serious, and a root canal is the only option of treatment at this stage, save for a complete extraction.
- Stage Five: Abscess Formation
In the fifth and final stage of a cavity, the infection has reached the tip of the root and exited the tip of the tooth’s structure. This, in turn, infects the surrounding tissues and possibly the bone structure. Swelling would be commonplace and pain severe. Root canal or extraction would be the order of the day should decay reach this stage.
As you can see, cavities don’t happen overnight. In the early stages, regular visits can stall and reverse the progression of these dastardly little devils, so it really does pay to visit the dentist at pre-selected intervals.