Proper brushing, flossing, and regular visits to your dentist are necessary for having a healthy and appealing smile. However, you may still develop conditions that affect the underlying health of your mouth, teeth, and gums, even after following proper oral hygiene. Considering that most Americans have some form of tooth decay, understanding the development of this dental condition is key to your oral health. While surprising for many people to learn, tooth decay can affect your teeth in different stages. Each stage varies in severity and will require its own level of treatment. Using this guide and your dentist's professional advice, you will be able to understand and treat the different stages of tooth decay.
Food, sugar, and acids will cause plaque and tartar to build up on your teeth. Over time, this stubborn buildup will cause the tooth enamel to break down. Known as demineralization, this damage will cause white spots to develop right under the enamel's surface.
If you are experiencing this first stage of tooth decay, you will most likely notice yellow or white spots on the surface of one or more teeth.
Without early intervention, you can quickly develop a more severe case of decay. Thankfully, this first stage of tooth decay can be reversed.
To reverse the decay, remove sugary foods and drinks from your diet. You should also avoid acidic foods, such as citrusy fruits and juices. Consider visiting your dentist for an application of fluoride. Fluoride is a natural mineral that remineralizes your enamel, strengthening your teeth and preventing further decay.
Stage 2 tooth decay occurs when the layer under your tooth enamel begins to break down. In the early part of this stage, the surface of your tooth will remain intact. Without efficient treatment, cracks will eventually develop across the entire tooth's surface.
Reversing this second stage of tooth decay is difficult, since it is almost impossible to stop the cracks in the tooth's surface. To treat this level of decay, your dentist will need to perform a detailed cleaning before filling the cracks in the tooth with a dental-grade bonding agent.
Stage 3 decay can be problematic, since the damage occurs to not only the tooth enamel, but also the dentin. Dentin is located under your tooth enamel. Dentin is a hard layer of living tissue that contains many tubules that lead to the nerves in your tooth. When this stage of tooth decay affects your dentin, you will experience some discomfort.
Filling the tooth is imperative, but not only for restoring your tooth back to health. Filling the tooth will reduce the exposure to the nerves in your dentin, which will decrease your pain.
In stage 4, the tooth decay spreads into the pulp. Tooth decay that spreads into your pulp is considered a serious and painful infection that requires immediate treatment. The infection causes pus to build up inside the tooth pulp, eventually killing the entire tooth.
A root canal is the most effective way to repair a tooth that is in stage 4 of decay. During a root canal, your dentist will clean out the infected pulp using an antibacterial solution. Once the infected pulp is removed, the tooth is filled with a dental filler.
The fifth and final stage causes the infection to spread into the tip of the tooth, the roots, and the bones surrounding the tooth. Known as an abscess, this severe infection may cause your cheeks, jaw, and mouth to swell. In addition to the swelling, you may experience headaches and nausea due to the enormous amount of pain.
Root canal therapy may be possible to remove the infected tissue, but a complete extraction of the infected tooth may be necessary.
Tooth decay is more than a minor cavity. With this guide, you will understand the importance of diagnosing and treating the stages of tooth decay. For more information, talk to a dentist like Kyle J Frisinger DMD.