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The Five Stages of Tooth Decay

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The Five Stages of Tooth Decay

Taking care of your oral health is crucial for a confident smile and overall well-being. One of the most common dental problems globally is dental caries, also known as cavities or tooth decay. Many Australian adults have dealt with dental decay at some point. Surprisingly, less than 1 in 9 adults (11%) have never experienced tooth decay in their permanent teeth. This highlights the widespread nature of dental issues and underscores the importance of regular dental care to address and prevent these concerns.

What Is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay, also known as dental caries, is a common dental issue marked by the breakdown and demineralisation of tooth structure. It occurs mainly due to the activity of specific bacteria residing in dental plaque, that sticky film that develops on your teeth. When you indulge in foods rich in carbohydrates, like sugars and starches, these bacteria in the plaque transform them into acids. Over time, the buildup of plaque and acids can wear away the enamel, the protective outer layer of your teeth. This process results in the creation of small holes or cavities in the teeth. Suppose you leave the issue untreated for a long. In that case, the decayed teeth can advance through various stages, potentially causing significant harm to the affected teeth and leading to complications like dental abscesses or tooth loss. Addressing tooth decay early is important to prevent these complications and maintain good oral health.

Tooth Decay Stages

Before we discuss the stages of tooth decay, you must know the parts that make up our teeth: Enamel, dentine, and dental pulp. Think of enamel as the super-strong shield on the outside of our teeth. It covers the top part of the tooth and stops bacteria from getting in and causing trouble. Like enamel in the top part, the tooth’s root has cementum. It’s not as strong as enamel, but it still helps protect the tooth. Under these protective layers is the dentine. This part gives our teeth their colour and shape. The innermost layer is the dental pulp with nerves and blood vessels. Now that you know how your teeth are built, you can better understand the different stages of caries tooth decay.

Stage 1 Early Cavity: Demineralisation

The first stage of tooth decay is demineralisation. This occurs when bacteria in our mouth process sugars from food, producing acids that attack the enamel. Despite no visible signs, the affected area looks frosted white. Regular dental check-ups can catch this stage early. It is reversible with fluoride treatment and good oral care, including a diet adjustment to reduce sugary and acidic foods.

Stage 2: Enamel Decay

After demineralisation, the enamel weakens, allowing bacteria to create small cavities or yellowish-brown holes. Typically painless, these cavities require dental fillings to repair. Consistent oral hygiene practices are essential to prevent further decay.

Stage 3: Dentine Decay

If untreated, decay progresses to the dentine, causing heightened sensitivity and mild discomfort. Deeper cavities may appear dark brown. Dental fillings and protective treatments like pulp capping are recommended to address decay in the dentin.

Stage 4: Pulp Involvement

Advancing decay reaches the pulp, causing intense pain, increased sensitivity, and the risk of infections. Root canal procedures are standard for removing infected pulp while preserving tooth structure. A dental crown is often applied post-procedure for reinforcement.

Stage 5: Abscess Formation

In the advanced stage, an abscess may develop, causing severe pain and swelling. Treatment involves a combination of approaches, including root canal, abscess drainage, and antibiotic therapy. Irreparable cases like tooth rot may necessitate tooth removal.

How To Prevent Tooth Decay or Tooth Cavity on the Side of the Tooth

To avoid rotten teeth or tooth decay, follow these simple steps:

Maintain Good Oral Hygiene:

  • Brush your teeth using fluoride toothpaste (twice a day).
  • Buy a soft-bristled toothbrush or electric toothbrush for daily brushing to prevent damaging your enamel and gums.
  • Floss without fail to remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth.

Limit Sugary and Acidic Foods:

  • Do not consume sugary and acidic foods and beverages.
  • If you consume them, try to do so during mealtimes to minimise their impact on your teeth.

Drink Water:

  • Water helps rinse away food particles and neutralises acids in your mouth.
  • Drink water after meals and throughout the day to maintain good oral hygiene.

Chew Sugar-Free Gum:

  • Chewing sugar-free gum stimulates saliva production, which helps neutralise acids and strengthen enamel.

Regular Dental Check-ups:

  • Schedule regular dental check-ups and cleanings with your dental practitioner
  • Professional cleanings can remove plaque and tartar that regular brushing may miss.

Fluoride Treatments:

  • Go for fluoride treatments your dental practitioner provides to strengthen your tooth enamel.

Dental Sealants:

  • Dental sealants are thin coatings placed on the chewing surfaces of molars to protect them against decay.

Healthy Diet:

  • Eat a balanced diet, including fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, for better oral health.

Avoid Tobacco Products:

  • Smoking or using tobacco products can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Quitting this habit can improve your oral health.

Limit Alcohol Consumption:

  • Too much alcohol consumption can lead to tooth decay. Moderation is vital for overall health, including oral health.

How To Fix Tooth Decay

The approach to address tooth decay varies depending on the stage of decay. Here are the potential steps in fixing tooth decay:

Reversal in Early Stages:

Early-stage brown tooth decay is reversible, thanks to the role of saliva depositing minerals back onto the tooth surface. Improved diet and oral hygiene play a significant role in this process. Dentists help treat early tooth decay with fluoride or other products, promoting remineralisation.

Regular Dental Check-ups:

These are recommended every 6 to 12 months to identify decay early and enable preventive measures. Dentists may use X-rays for a comprehensive diagnosis, especially in areas not visible to the naked eye. The dentist’s role in early detection enables the avoidance of fillings, preserving tooth strength.

Filling Cavities:

A hole (cavity) may form as decay progresses, necessitating a filling. Your dentist can remove the damaged part and fill the tooth cavity with the filling material for repair. Timely intervention is crucial, as untreated decay can spread deeper into the tooth.

Root Canal Treatment:

Severe decay reaching the tooth’s centre may cause aching, requiring root canal treatment. Dentists perform a root canal to extract the damaged nerve while preserving the tooth.

Preventive Advice:

Dental practitioners advise preventing future decay by maintaining good oral hygiene and making dietary adjustments. Focusing on preventive measures is essential to avoid further decay around existing fillings or in other areas of the mouth.

Where To Get Help for Tooth Decay or Your Rotting Teeth

Contact the dedicated professionals at Focus Dental Group for expert assistance in addressing tooth decay. Our team offers the best dental care to help you overcome tooth decay and achieve optimal oral health. When you come to our clinic for help with your decaying molar tooth or carious cavity, we design a tailored treatment plan that will work the best for you. We also show you stages of tooth decay photos to help you better understand the process. To be confident that you are in the hands of the experts, you can ask us for before and after tooth decay treatment stories of our existing clients. Don’t let cavity symptoms bother you; schedule a consultation with Focus Dental Group today.

Frequently asked questions

Known more casually as tooth decay, dental caries is a situation where the challenging parts of the teeth gradually deteriorate, thanks to the work of bacteria. These bacteria create acid, demineralising the enamel, dentin, and the tooth’s pulp.

Tooth decay can be addressed and treated, especially in its early stages. The approach may involve remineralisation, fluoride treatments, dental fillings for cavities, and, in advanced cases, procedures like root canal treatments may be needed.

Getting rid of decay involves professional dental intervention. Dentists may use various treatments depending on the severity, including dental fillings, fluoride applications, or root canal therapy. It is essential to treat your decayed teeth at the earliest to prevent the issue from worsening.

To prevent tooth decay, maintain good oral hygiene practices such as regular brushing, flossing, and fluoride toothpaste. Additionally, attend regular dental check-ups for early detection and intervention.

Common symptoms for this dental issue include sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet stimuli, toothache, visible holes, or pits on the teeth, and darkening or staining of the tooth surface.

Determining the stage of tooth decay requires a professional dental examination. Dentists may use X-rays to identify decay in hidden areas and assess the extent of damage to determine the appropriate treatment.

Tooth decay is primarily caused by the activity of bacteria in the presence of sugars, producing acids that demineralise the tooth structure. The role of a base is not directly related to the initiation of tooth decay.

The tooth decay process involves the breakdown of tooth tissues through acid production by bacteria. This acid demineralises the enamel, leading to the formation of cavities. If left untreated, decay can progress to deeper layers of the tooth, causing more significant damage. Regular dental care and hygiene help prevent and address tooth decay at various stages.


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