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The 5 Stages Of Tooth Decay

Cavities always start small and are undetectable to the naked eye. However, if left unchecked and untreated, the decay will eventually progress and bypass the protective layers of the tooth. Once the cavity reaches the inner chamber, an infection is imminent and will cause serious damage to the tooth.

According to a leading Prescott, AZ dentist, there are five stages of tooth decay:

Stage One: Demineralization

The onset of tooth decay happens when acids in your mouth attack the hard outer layer or the enamel of your tooth through a process called demineralization. This happens on a small portion of the surface of the tooth first. This early stage of tooth decay comes in the form of a white spot (also called lesion) on the enamel. If the decay is detected at this point, steps can be taken to remineralize the enamel and stop the cavity from progressing.

Stage Two: Enamel Erosion or Decay

If the initial lesion isn’t treated immediately, the tooth will break down further and cause the decay of the tooth enamel. The damage has now officially become tooth decay. The cavity can now be seen using a dental x-ray and the underlying dentin layer of the tooth is exposed. The cavity can cause patients to suffer from tooth sensitivity when eating or drinking too hot and extremely cold foods and beverages.

The decay at this stage can be still be treated by removing the decayed material and the placement of dental filling, inlay, onlay, or crown.

Stage Three: Dentin Erosion or Decay

The cavity will further spread to the dentin of the tooth if the enamel decay was not treated immediately. Dentin is a porous substance which is not as durable as enamel. When the cavity reaches the dentin, treatment becomes a far more crucial matter because the pace of the decay will go faster.

Stage Four: Dental Pulp Infection

The dental pulp is made up of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues and it is found in the innermost part of a tooth. This pulp plays an important role in the maturation and overall health of a tooth. If the bacteria reach the dentin layer of the tooth, it means that the dental pulp has also been breached. This causes a root canal infection which can be highly painful and uncomfortable.

At this stage, root canal therapy and tooth extraction are the only treatment options.

Stage Five: Abscess Formation

If root canal therapy or tooth extraction has still not been performed, the infection will spread beyond the dental pulp. The surrounding tissues, including the gum tissues and jawbone, will be affected and inflammation and swelling are imminent. Abscesses or the accumulation of pus will also appear as a response to the infection. The presence of an abscess can be a serious health problem which can result in a major general infection and other health issues, especially if it bursts. At this point, the infection has to be treated with antibiotics before the severely decayed tooth will be removed.

The longer you wait to have your cavities treated, the worse it will be for your tooth. If you suspect you have some dental caries or if your dentist has already ascertained this, get the recommended treatment quickly so that you can still preserve your natural tooth.


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