Regular dental hygiene and dentist visits often spare you the dangers of advanced tooth decay. However, if you leave a problematic tooth untreated, you may experience the five stages of tooth decay.
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Stage One: Demineralization
Tooth enamel, the protective shield that keeps your tooth safe and functional, primarily consists of minerals. Plaque bacteria attack this outer layer and wear it down over time, causing your enamel to lose its minerals. Demineralization often presents with a white spot on your tooth, the ground zero of your tooth’s battle with decay.
When you visit the dentist, they may use a fluoride treatment to strengthen your enamel in place of its minerals. You can also fight tooth decay at home with fluoride toothpaste.
Stage Two: Enamel Decay
Ignoring your tooth during this stage allows the enamel to break down, eventually turning the white spot brown. Cavities begin to form, requiring fillings to stop them from worsening. Your dentist may use resin, ceramic, amalgam, or composite fillings that match the color of your teeth.
Stage Three: Dentin Decay
The layer of your tooth below the enamel is called dentin, a soft material that easily gives way to acid from plaque bacteria. Once the decay reaches your dentin, it spreads faster. This quick spread of decay leads to tooth sensitivity when consuming hot or cold substances.
Some dentin decay requires a filling, but more severe cases may need a crown. Crowns cover your tooth above the gums, protecting it from further damage.
Stage Four: Pulp Damage
Your tooth’s pulp contains the blood vessels and nerves, keeping your tooth healthy and providing tooth sensation. If your pulp becomes damaged by decay, it begins to swell. However, your tooth cannot swell with it, causing pain as its nerves become compacted.
Most patients presenting their dentists with tooth decay at this stage require a root canal. During a root canal, the dentist removes the damaged pulp in your tooth and cleans the cavity. Once filled, a crown goes over the tooth.
Stage Five: Abscess
Of all the stages of tooth decay, abscess brings the most pain. When you let tooth decay continue for too long, the damage allows infection to form. This infection not only hurts but may also spread to other parts of your body, making it essential to treat it quickly.
Treating an abscess often involves a round of antibiotics to fight the infection. After the infection disappears, you’ll either undergo a root canal or, in severe cases, have the tooth pulled.
Tooth Decay Treatment Starts with the Best Dentist in Tucson, AZ
If you experience any of the five stages of tooth decay, visit Smile Perfection in Tucson, AZ, for professional dental care. Call (520) 293-2166 to request your appointment today. Do you worry about halitosis? Learn how plaque causes bad breath.