The various stages of tooth decay (with infographic)

Tooth decay is one of the most dreading dental conditions that, if left untreated, might lead to dental cavities, dental abscesses, and even tooth loss. Several reasons might trigger tooth decay, and plaque can be one of the most crucial factors.

To avoid tooth decay, you must follow a healthy dental regime because the decaying process does not occur overnight. Are you aware that tooth decay progresses via five stages?

The first stage of the tooth decay process can be unidentified, and sometimes only a dentist can keep you informed on your deteriorating oral health condition. The good news is that the early signs of decay can be reversed with proper Fluoride treatment. Now let's clearly understand the different stages of cavity progression.

1. Normal tooth

A healthy tooth is easily identifiable and can be distinguished from a rotten tooth by its appearance. Here are a few indications that you have a normal tooth:

1. A white tooth without any yellow or white stains

2. Healthy and pain-free gums

3. No trace of tooth sensitivity

4. No bad breaths

To maintain a normal tooth, you must follow a healthy dental regime and visit a dentist every six months. However, if you fail to maintain a healthy oral condition, you might experience some early signs and symptoms of tooth decay.

You may find white spots on your teeth, which seem like a sign of over-whitening. These white spots, however, indicate calcium loss and plaque accumulation. Plaque contains bacteria, which digest carbohydrates from the food you consume and cause the enamel to weaken and degrade.

Fortunately, tooth decay at this stage can be reversed by consulting with your dentist and strictly adhering to the instructions mentioned by your dentist.

2. Decayed tooth

If the initial signs of tooth decay are left untreated, your normal tooth progresses towards decay and damage. The tooth decay process begins by breaking down the enamel and minerals to give rise to lesions.

Once your tooth has undergone severe decay, you cannot reverse the tooth decay process because, in this stage, your teeth enamel will start to break down. You may even end up having a chipped or broken tooth in the worst-case scenario.

The symptoms are also milder in this scenario, and they are as follows:

1. Significant discoloration of tooth

2. Sharp pain while you chew food

3. Dental sensitivity

4. Broken or chipped tooth

5. Visible formation of holes or pits in your teeth

The progression of tooth decay mainly arises due to poor oral hygiene and lifestyle choices made by an individual. Nevertheless, your tooth decay may also worsen due to diabetes, as per a report by CDC. The only solution at this point, if it is not too late, is a dental filling treatment.

3. Damaged tooth

As mentioned earlier, several stages are involved in tooth decay, and the third stage may permanently damage your tooth if it reaches up to the dentin. Dentin is the tooth tissue that resides between the teeth enamel and pulp. When the tooth decay further progresses, the bacterial build-up destroys the enamel and then proceeds towards the dentin.

Once decay reaches the dentin, the pain in the affected teeth intensifies, and you may need a dental crown to restore the damaged teeth. Nevertheless, you must maintain strict oral hygiene even after the treatment.

4. Decay in roots

One of the most advanced and painful stages of tooth decay is when the damage reaches the tooth root and the pulp. At this stage, the pulp becomes infected, and the underlying nerves and blood vessels get damaged within the tooth. As a result, you may start experiencing bad breath, swollen and tender gum, and intense pain.

Unfortunately, there's no way you can get rid of this severe condition, and neither can the procedure be reversed. However, undergoing a root canal treatment or extracting the rotten teeth can only help you get rid of this painful condition.

A root canal treatment helps restore a jeopardized tooth by eradicating the infected root and pulp to prevent further infection. Before finally sealing the tooth cavity, the area is cleaned and disinfected to deter further infection.

5. Dead tooth

The last and the fifth stage of tooth decay is when the infection spreads throughout the surrounding tissues and the adjacent bone structure. It's normal for you to experience unbearable pain and swelling, resulting in the formation of abscesses that only a dentist can resolve. Abscesses can be dangerous for both children and adults if left untreated. The only way to solve a dead tooth in pain is extraction.

6. Dental Implants

Suppose you are ignorant of your oral health condition or have consulted with your dentist at some of the last stages. In that case, it's expected that your dentist will eliminate your rotten teeth. What's next? Is it okay to have a missing tooth?

No, it's not!

A missing tooth might impact your oral health and, most importantly, your appearance. Usually, tooth roots retain teeth in place and help preserve gum and bone health. But, a missing tooth can result in jaw bone loss, affecting all the nearby tooth roots and impacting oral symmetry.

However, a dental implant treatment can help restore a missing tooth. A screw-like structure is first implanted in this three-step process to replace a lost tooth. Next, the dentist allows the area to heal, so the implant osseointegrates with the jaw bone. Finally, a dental crown is fixed on the implant that looks and works like a natural tooth.

Prevention is better than cure

It's normal for you to feel petrified after getting a clear idea about the different steps involved in tooth decay. To avoid all these complications, you must follow a healthy dental regime that involves brushing your tooth twice daily and flossing once after a meal. In addition, you must never avoid visiting a dentist twice a year as that can help reverse tooth decay in its first stages. Want to get a personalized oral care routine for you? Trident Smiles Dental in Sunnyvale, CA, is your best option!

Tooth decay progression infographic

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