The Stages of Tooth Decay

Written by Dr. McConnell on Apr 5, 2021



cosmetic dentist in Novato

No one goes from having perfectly healthy teeth to completely decayed teeth overnight; rather, the process is slow and gradual—so much so that it can be hard to even notice it’s happening.

The good news is that it’s never too late to change dental health habits and seek the help of the friendly staff here at the.

Tooth decay occurs in stages, so let’s have a look at how to identify and treat each stage.

1. White Spots

As teeth build plaque and start to lose calcium, small white, chalky areas can form on the surface of the tooth. When tooth decay is caught at this early stage, further damage can be preventable. Fixing your brushing and flossing habits is a great place to start, but fluoride treatment and professional cleanings also are recommended.

2. Enamel Decay

If the initial demineralization of the teeth is allowed to continue, the next stage is the breakdown of the enamel on your teeth. You may start to see lesions, which often are followed by cracks in the teeth that can cause irreversible damage. The enamel on your teeth is your last defense against decay, so once it’s gone, things can get bad fairly quickly, possibly leading to chipped and/or broken teeth.

3. Dentin Decay

The next stage of tooth decay affects the dentin, which is the part of the tooth in between the enamel and the pulp. If the decay finds its way into the dentin, the patient likely will begin to feel sharper, more intense pain as cavities form. This typically is the point where a dentist will suggest a filling.

4. Pulp Damage

The pulp is the center of a tooth, so if decay finds its way there, the patient is at risk of bacterial infection in the blood vessels and nerves. At this point, people often experience constant pain that only can be relieved by a root canal procedure.

5. Abscess Formation

The last and by far the most painful stage of tooth decay is the formation of abscesses as the infection reaches the root tip of the tooth. The gums, tongue, and jaw bone can all be at risk of further infection if the decay is allowed to get to this point. Typically, once these painful abscesses have formed, oral surgery is a serious consideration.

6. Tooth Loss

If the above stages of tooth decay are not addressed, the patient will lose their tooth. There are cosmetic dentistry options to replace missing teeth, but it’s always preferable to preserve the integrity of the original tooth.

If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned stages of tooth decay, consider reaching out to your cosmetic dentist serving Novato to seek treatment that will stop that decay in its tracks. We hope you’re able to keep your teeth healthy, and identifying decay early in the process is a great way to make sure that happens.