Have you been experiencing dental pain? If so, it is possible that you may be suffering from tooth decay. However, tooth decay evolves through five stages, and each level of decay requires a different treatment. Read on to learn more about what stage of dental decay you may be experiencing, and how you can possibly expect your dentist to help remedy the issue.
1st Stage: Chalky White Spots
When tooth decay is just starting to take hold, it begins as small white spots on the surface of your dental enamel. This is caused by the build-up of plaque and the loss of calcium. Plaque is the primary culprit when it comes to tooth decay. When you eat, the bacteria in plaque begins to feed on the sugars within your food. Once these sugars are metabolized, these bacteria release acids on the surface of your enamel.
Your body will do what it can to protect your teeth from these acids using its own natural defenses during a process called remineralization. Using either your saliva or the fluoride in your water, your mouth will work to restore the minerals in your teeth that are being broken down by the acids. However, if this process is not successful, this leads us to the second stage of decay.
2nd Stage: Decay of the Dental Enamel
If the acids that are released onto your teeth are not washed away successfully, this can lead to the decay of your dental enamel. This can occur when there are so many repeated “acid attacks” on your teeth that your body cannot remineralize quickly enough. Once your dental enamel has started to decay and your body is not capable of restoring the minerals, a lesion will form within the tooth. Lesions proceed a cavity or hole in your tooth, and they are not painful since there are no nerves in the dental enamel. However, it is important that your dentist treats a lesion in the enamel before it progresses into a cavity. Your dentist can protect your tooth from further damage by using fluoride treatments or dental sealants.
3rd Stage: Decay of the Dentin
If the lesion in your tooth is not treated, your dental enamel will continue to wear down to the next layer of your tooth: the dentin. The dentin layer is hidden beneath the dental enamel, but covers the pulp. It is filled with numerous microscopic tubules that allow access to the inner nerve of the tooth. Because the nerve is exposed to outside stimuli once the decay has reached the dentin layer, you will experience pain and hypersensitivity. At this stage, the loss of minerals in your dental enamel causes it to collapse and form a cavity. It is important that you visit your dentist to have restorative treatment (such as a filling) at this stage, or your dental decay may worsen to involve the pulp of your tooth.
4th Stage: Decay Reaches the Pulp
At the center of your tooth there is a substance called “pulp.” This is where all of the blood vessels and nerve endings of your tooth are located. Therefore, when your dental decay has reached this part of the tooth, you may experience significant pain. At this stage of decay, the only way to salvage your natural tooth is to receive a root canal procedure. During this procedure, your dentist will remove the infected pulp from inside the tooth.
5th Stage: Abscess
If your dental decay manages to go even further beyond the pulp, it can cause an abscess. An abscess is an infection of the tooth’s root, and this can be very painful. This is very serious, as it can damage your jawbone and surrounding tissues as well. Surgery is almost certainly required at this stage of dental decay, and you should visit your dentist immediately if suffering from an abscess.
If you’re experiencing dental decay, it is important to visit your dentist immediately. To schedule your appointment, contact TruBlu Dentistry today!