Did you know there are five distinct stages of tooth decay? And, that in the first stage of decay, you can actually take steps to reverse the progression of the disease? Indeed, it’s true. In the first stage of decay, whether you’re a child or an adult, the application of fluoride via fluoride treatments, your toothpaste and even the local water supply can stop a cavity from penetrating through the enamel and reaching its second stage. Even the saliva in your mouth and the foods you eat help to re-mineralize a tooth in jeopardy. But that’s just the first stage! What about the rest? Understanding how a cavity progresses can assist you in preventing each successive stage from occurring. There’s always a lot going on in that mouth!
Stage One: White Spots
In stage one, the tooth begins to show signs of strain from the attack of sugars and acids, and white spots will begin to materialize just below the surface of the enamel. These white spots are representative of the demineralization of the tooth and can be easy to miss because they’re likely to occur on molars. A dental exam, of course, is designed to catch such cavities! Can you see why regular visits to the dentist are recommended? As mentioned previously, at this stage, the cavity can be repaired without the need to drill the tooth. Take a look at your teeth in the mirror. Do you see any white spots (especially where you may have had brackets from braces)? This is demineralization. An exam in our office will allow us to tell if the lesion is active or has stopped progressing.
Stage Two: Enamel Decay
Stage two marks the beginning of the end for the surface enamel that is being attacked. Initially, the tooth erodes from the underside outward, so the outer enamel will still be intact for the first half of this second stage. Once the cavity breaks through the surface of the enamel, there is no turning back, and you or your child will need to have the cavity corrected with a filling. Before we get to this point, let's talk about better home care and fluoride application.
Stage Three: Dentin Decay
If a cavity in your mouth were to progress beyond stage two without you knowing, you’d tend become aware of it when it started to hit stage three because it would probably start to cause some pain. At this level, the cavity begins to eat away at the second level of tooth material that lies beneath the enamel: the dentin. A filling can still be used to stop the onslaught of bacteria assaulting the tooth in order to prevent the cavity from reaching the tooth’s most critical component: the pulp.
Stage Four: Involvement of The Pulp
Once the cavity reaches the pulp, it’s going to hurt. A lot. So, if you’ve unfortunately missed all the signs to this point, a toothache, a screaming child or moaning teenager will certainly let you know there is a big problem. Stage four is serious, and a root canal is the only option of treatment at this stage, save for a complete extraction.
Stage Five: Abscess Formation
In the fifth and final stage of a cavity, the infection has reached the tip of the root and exited the tip of the tooth’s structure. This, in turn, infects the surrounding tissues and possibly the bone structure. Swelling would be commonplace and pain can be quite severe. In children (as well as adults) an abscess can be fatal if not dealt with immediately. Root canal or extraction would also be the order of the day should decay reach this stage.
Do you think you have a dental emergency on your hands? Give a call at 585-223-8690
As you can see, cavities don’t happen overnight. In the early stages, regular visits can stall and reverse the progression of decay, so it really does pay to visit the dentist at pre-selected intervals. You can keep yourself or your kids far from stage five for a lifetime if you practice good home care.
CrossKeys Dental is located at 110 CrossKeys Office Park in Fairport. Dr. DuPre՛ and Dr. Badali provide comprehensive family dentistry and are always welcoming new patients. Visit us at www.CrossKeysDentalFairport.com for more information.
© 2018 CrossKeys Dental in Fairport, NY by Vince Badali, DDS. Source: Patient Connect 365