At the very initial stages, tooth decay is indeed hard to detect. This is because the decay in your tooth might start simply in the form of a brown or white spot. Hence, according to the Journal of the American Dental Association, tooth decay does not really have any symptom when it starts setting in.
The discoloration occurs because the enamel softens and becomes prone to acid attacks as well as the foods stains settling down. Thus tooth discoloration is perhaps the first sign of your tooth decay. Let us look at the stages of tooth decay serially.
Stage 1: White Spots
These appear basically as a result of loss of calcium and build up of plaque. Bacteria in the plaque begin to metabolize sugars from food that you consume. Acids are released and they cause tooth enamel to break down – referred to as demineralization of the tooth surface. At this phase, your tooth decay is still reversible by following proper oral hygiene, using fluoride toothpaste or going in for a topical fluoride treatment.
Stage 2: Decay of the Enamel
When the enamel starts breaking underneath the tooth’s surface, the natural remineralization process fails to restore the proper minerals to your tooth. This causes a lesion to form within the tooth. As the decay persists, the surface of the tooth might break and this is irreversible. In this stage, one is required to rush to the dentist as early as possible.
Stage 3: Decay of the Dentin
Stage three of tooth decay is the stage of dentin decay. When the decay and enamel damage is neglected the lesion risks reach to the dentin. The dentin exists in between the enamel and the pulp of the tooth. Once the decay reaches the dentin, the level of pain advances and a sharp pain is generally experienced in the infected tooth. Usually a dental filling is used at this point to restore the tooth.
Stage 4: Affecting the Pulp
The pulp is considered to be the tooth’s center. It is made up of living tissues and cells. If this gets infected then pus forms which kills the blood vessels and nerves within your tooth. This is a common case where a root canal therapy is resorted to.
Stage 5: Abscess Formation
This is the final stage of tooth decay and also the most painful. Once the infection reaches the tip of your tooth root, the conjoining bones are at a risk of infection too. The gums and tongue may also swell which disrupts normal speaking and eating activities. Surgical intervention by your dentist alone comes to the rescue at this point.
Stage 6: A Probable Tooth Loss
Finally, if your tooth decay is left untreated, it would at some point need to be extracted and you will be losing your tooth.
Your tooth decay is quite easy to manage if addressed at the earlier stages. Preventive measures truly help avert tooth decay:
- Adhere to a oral hygiene regimen –use toothpastes and mouthwashes regularly, especially the ones with fluoride content in them.
- Keeping the mouth hydrated (by drinking water) is important. It helps produce saliva that nourishes teeth enamel and cleanses the mouth.
Finally, paying a regular visit to the dentist is of great help for your dental health. Teeth health in good condition effectively prevents tooth decay as well as the pain and hazards associated with it!