There are five stages of tooth decay and if a sudden toothache has you thinking about a trip to the dentist, you may be at one of the later phases.
This post explains what causes tooth decay, how to identify the five stages and give you some tips on how to prevent it from happening.
Dental plaque is important to the tooth decay process. Plaque is a colorless, sticky film that covers the surfaces of your teeth. It’s made up of bacteria, food particles, and saliva.
If your teeth aren’t cleaned regularly, plaque can begin to build up. It can also harden over time, forming something called tartar. The presence of tartar can help to further protect bacteria, making them more difficult to remove.
Generally speaking, there are five stages of tooth decay. Let’s examine them in more detail below.
Stage 1: Initial demineralization
The outer layer of your teeth is composed of a type of tissue called enamel. Enamel is the hardest tissueTrusted Source in your body and is mostly made up of minerals.
However, as a tooth is exposed to acids produced by plaque bacteria, the enamel begins to lose these minerals.
When this occurs, you may see a white spot appear on one of your teeth. This area of mineral loss is an initial sign of tooth decay.
Stage 2: Enamel decay
In stage two of tooth decay, the enamel starts breaking underneath the tooth’s surface. At this stage, the natural remineralization process is unable to restore the proper enamel and minerals, causing a lesion to form within the tooth. As the decay persists, the surface of the tooth risks breaking, which is irreversible. If one’s tooth breaks, you should seek dental attention from your dentist in Camberwell immediately.
Stage 3: Dentin decay
Dentin is the tissue that lies under the enamel. It’s softer than enamel, which makes it more sensitive to damage from acid. Because of this, tooth decay proceeds at a faster rate when it reaches the dentin.
Dentin also contains tubes that lead to the nerves of the tooth. Because of this, when dentin is affected by tooth decay, you may begin experiencing sensitivity. You may notice this particularly when having hot or cold foods or drinks.
Stage 4: Pulp damage
The pulp is the innermost layer of your tooth. It contains the nerves and blood vessels that help to keep the tooth healthy. The nerves present in the pulp also provide sensation to the tooth.
When damage to the pulp happens, it may become irritated and start to swell. Because the surrounding tissues in the tooth can’t expand to accommodate this swelling, pressure may be placed on the nerves. This can lead to pain.
Stage 5: Abscess
At this point, if you haven’t visited the dentist yet, you’re in danger of experiencing a dental abscess. This is where bacteria reaches all the way down to the root. This is the consequence of not visiting the dentist to treat the dental cavity.
Tooth abscesses can cause severe pain that may radiate into the jaw. Other symptoms that may be present include swelling of the gums, face or jaw, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in your neck.
A tooth abscess requires prompt treatment, as the infection can spread into the bones of your jaw as well as other areas of your head and neck. In some cases, treatment may involve removing the affected tooth.
Good oral and dental hygiene can help you avoid cavities and tooth decay. Here are some tips to help prevent cavities. Ask your dentist in Camberwell which tips are best for you.
- Brush with fluoride toothpaste after eating or drinking. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and ideally after every meal, using fluoride-containing toothpaste. To clean between your teeth, floss or use an interdental cleaner.
- Rinse your mouth. If your dentist feels you have a high risk of developing cavities, he or she may recommend that you use a mouth rinse with fluoride.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Get professional teeth cleanings and regular oral exams with Dental check ups in Camberwell which can help prevent problems or spot them early. Your dentist can recommend a schedule that’s best for you.
- Consider dental sealants. A sealant is a protective plastic coating applied to the chewing surface of back teeth. It seals off grooves and crannies that tend to collect food, protecting tooth enamel from plaque and acid. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends sealants for all school-age children. Sealants may last for several years before they need to be replaced, but they need to be checked regularly.
- Drink some tap water. Most public water supplies have added fluoride, which can help reduce tooth decay significantly. If you drink only bottled water that doesn’t contain fluoride, you’ll miss out on fluoride benefits.
- Avoid frequent snacking and sipping. Whenever you eat or drink beverages other than water, you help your mouth bacteria create acids that can destroy tooth enamel. If you snack or drink throughout the day, your teeth are under constant attack.
- Eat tooth-healthy foods. Some foods and beverages are better for your teeth than others. Avoid foods that get stuck in grooves and pits of your teeth for long periods, or brush soon after eating them. However, foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables increase saliva flow, and unsweetened coffee, tea and sugar-free gum help wash away food particles.
- Consider fluoride treatments. Your dentist may recommend periodic fluoride treatments, especially if you aren’t getting enough fluoride through fluoridated drinking water and other sources. Your Riversdale Dental dentist may also recommend custom trays that fit over your teeth for application of prescription fluoride if your risk of tooth decay is very high.
- Ask about antibacterial treatments. If you’re especially vulnerable to tooth decay — for example, because of a medical condition — your dentist in Camberwell may recommend special antibacterial mouth rinses or other treatments to help cut down on harmful bacteria in your mouth.
- Combined treatments. Chewing xylitol-based gum along with prescription fluoride and an antibacterial rinse can help reduce the risk of cavities.
If you have any oral health concerns and you would like to speak with one of our friendly dentists, please call our Camberwell clinic on (03) 9882 5566
At Riversdale Dental we specialise in all areas of children’s dental, cosmetic dentistry, dentures, crowns, root canal and teeth whitening procedures. Book here for a check up with one our family dentists today.