How To Tell If You Have Tooth Decay

Much of the tooth decay we see in our Brisbane Dentist Clinic is preventable and in this final post, we discuss just how starts and progresses

5 Stages of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is the most common cause of toothache. When dietary sugars are metabolized in the mouth by bacteria it produces acid that is responsible for tooth demineralization. The demineralization over a period develops into decay. As dental decay takes some time to develop, if early intervention is done, a tooth can be saved. A cavity develops in the following stages.

Stage 1: White Spots

Stage 2: Enamel Decay

Stage 3: Dentin Decay

Stage 4: Involvement of the Pulp

Stage 5: Abscess Formation


Stage 1:White Spots

The appearance of chalky white areas on the tooth surface due to calcium loss and plaque buildup is the first step. The Bacteria then starts to metabolize consumed dietary sugars. The acid buildup as a result of this process causes enamel deterioration, resulting in the demineralization of the tooth surface.

Regular and correct brushing technique, a mineralising toothpaste and dietary changes may reverse the early cavity at this stage.

Stage Two: Enamel Decay

At this stage, the demineralization is more than natural generalization, resulting in weakened & broken enamel. A carious lesion is visible at this stage. Immediate dental checkup is recommended in such cases.

Stage Three: Dentin

 If left untreated, bacteria and acids continue enamel dissolution & there is a risk of lesion spreading up to dentin (tooth layer between enamel and pulp).

 Once the dentin is involved, the pain intensifies. With substantial levels of subsurface enamel loss, enamel collapses and a dental cavity results.

A dental filling is most likely required for restoring the tooth structure.

Stage Four:  Pulpal involvement

The Pulp is the central portion of a tooth & contains blood vessels, nerves, and cells known as odontoblasts. If the pulp gets infected with bacteria, pus then forms that kills the blood vessels and nerves in the tooth. This is the cause of toothache.

At this stage, the course of treatment is root canal therapy. In a root canal treatment, all the infected and inflamed pulp is removed, followed by the cleaning and filling of the root canals with biocompatible material.

Stage Five: Abscess Formation

When the infection spreads to the tooth root, it starts to invade the surrounding bone & soft tissues (gum and tongue).

Abscess is drained either via tooth or by incision and drainage. Antibiotics and pain relief medications are prescribed. Your dentist will decide whether the tooth can be saved by root canal therapy or it has to be extracted

By establishing an oral care regimen that involves brushing twice daily, flossing & regular dental checkups along with a healthy diet (limiting sugar intake) will help prevent tooth decay.

Read More How to Prevent Tooth Caries in Adults

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