Stages of Tooth Decay?

As one of the most common health problems affecting people of all ages all over the world, tooth decay has six stages from easily treatable and reversible to more serious and permanent damage causing.  Here are the progressive stages of tooth decay:

Stage 1: White Spots

When your enamel starts to lose calcium and your body is not able to replace it with minerals, your affected teeth will have chalky white areas.  The bacteria in your mouth uses the sugars and starches in your food and drinks to produce acid.  The acid then starts to strip your tooth enamel of minerals like calcium, phosphorus and fluoride reducing the enamel’s protective qualities.  Your tooth’s enamel is one of the hardest tissues in the human body, but once the white spots start to appear, your enamel is demineralizing.  The dentist can treat this stage of tooth decay with a fluoride treatment and suggest a fluoride toothpaste for you to use at home when you brush twice a day.

Stage 2: Enamel Decay

In the second stage, the tooth’s enamel starts to break down from the acid and can’t be restored by adding more minerals to the enamel.  Tooth decay at this stage can cause the tooth to chip, crack or break.  Without the enamel to protect and strengthen the tooth, one bite of crunchy food can result in a broken tooth which requires immediate attention from a dentist.

Stage 3: Dentin Decay

The third stage of tooth decay affects the dentin or the layer of the tooth below the enamel.  The acid continues to erode the enamel, the bacteria settles into the crevices created in the enamel and the damage goes further into the tooth.  The dentin is the layer between the enamel and pulp of the tooth so the tooth decay in this layer will cause more serious pain.  In order for the dentist to help tooth decay at this point, your tooth will need to have the cavity addressed with a filling or possibly a crown.

Stage 4: Affecting the Pulp

In the fourth stage of tooth decay, the problem has gone past the protective enamel, through the dentin and into the center of the tooth, or the pulp.  The pulp has nervous tissue, blood vessels and other living cells called odontoblasts which are responsible for making dentin.  Tooth decay that has affected the pulp causes an infection in the pulp and kills the vascular and nervous tissue.  As the tissue dies it creates pus and the toothache will cause constant pain around the affected tooth.  The dentist will most likely address this tooth decay with root canal therapy.

Stage 5: Abscess

Once the tooth decay has reached the fifth stage, the tooth will be causing serious pain.  The decay has reached the root of the tooth and can extend into the jawbone near the tooth.  Typically, you will have swollen gums and a swollen tongue which will affect your speech and even make it easier for you to contract other diseases.  The dentist may need to address this tooth decay with oral surgery.

Stage 6: Tooth Loss

The final stage, six, is when the tooth decay has damaged the tooth beyond repair.  The tooth will need to be extracted or it may even fall out on its own.

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