Understanding and recognizing the different stages of tooth decay ensures you can stop a potential dental health complication well before issues worsen. Learn more about the progression and impact of mouth deterioration.
Demineralization: Weakened Enamel
Enamel is the outermost layer of your teeth and is responsible for preserving the health of your dentin, pulp, and more. During the early stages of tooth decay, acid byproducts from plaque buildup demineralize enamel, causing it to turn white and become incredibly weak. Luckily, minor demineralization is reversible with a fluoride treatment and daily mouthwash.
Enamel Decay: Cavities and Other Progressive Deterioration
Enamel decay occurs when the white spots on your weakened enamel turn brown. During this stage, enamel rapidly deteriorates, triggering cavities and other progressive dental health complications. Unfortunately, deterioration is irreversible and requires medical intervention to address. Tooth fillings can stop cavities from spreading and mitigate the tooth decay process.
Dentin Decay: Completely Softened Enamel
Dentin, found just under the enamel layer, is the last line of defense for the blood vessels found inside of your teeth—also known as the pulp. Unlike enamel, dentin is extremely sensitive to acidic materials and begins deteriorating when exposed. A professional can fix minor dentin deterioration with a filling, but more severe cases may require dental extraction and crown application.
Pulp Decay: Blood Vessel Complications
As mentioned before, your dental pulp contains the blood vessels that keep your teeth healthy and alive. However, by the fourth stage of tooth decay, dental pulp no longer benefits from the protection of dentin and enamel. Instead, pulp necrosis (death) occurs, leading to foul mouth odors, tooth and gum swelling, and severe dental discoloration. Root canals, fillings, and crowns are necessary to stop the impact of pulp decay and necrosis.
Abscess Growth & Infection: The Final Stage
Once the decay works through your enamel, dentin, and pulp, the final stage of tooth decay occurs—abscess growth resulting from a root infection. Once bacteria can effectively penetrate your dental pulp, conditions begin spreading, producing painful growth at the base of your teeth. Immediate medical intervention will stop the spread of disease to other parts of your head and body. This intervention will likely involve root canals, tooth removals, and rounds of strong antibiotics.
Recognizing and understanding the different stages of tooth decay is essential for proper personal mouth hygiene. However, going to the dentist often is far more vital to the health of your teeth. In fact, reducing the chances of dental health complications is one of many benefits associated with regular cleanings. Ensure you stay on top of your scheduled dentist appointments and avoid this unsavory experience!