Tooth decay is the destruction of your tooth’s enamel, the hard-out layer of your teeth. Though cavities are more common among children and teens, adults and seniors are all susceptible to tooth decay. Not all tooth decay needs to result in cavities and/or tooth loss. Here’s what to look for, how to treat it, and when you should see your dentist.
The Stages of Tooth Decay
There are six main stages of tooth decay. Which stage your tooth or teeth are at determines whether you can save yourself from a filling, root canal, or extraction.
- Surface white spots. A result of calcium loss and plaque build-up, you could notice small white spots on your teeth as the enamel starts to deteriorate. Tooth damage can be reversible at this stage and most dentists recommend a combination of fluoride toothpaste, the right brushing technique, and a topical fluoride treatment.
- Enamel decay occurs when your tooth’s enamel begins to break down beneath the surface. A lesion forms within the tooth and as the decay progresses, the tooth’s surface might break. This is an irreversible condition and requires a trip to the dentist.
- Dentin decay happens when enamel decay is left untreated. Bacteria and acids continue to wear away your tooth’s enamel and dentin (located between the enamel and pulp). At this point, you’ll likely feel pain in the tooth as a cavity forms. Fillings are the typical treatment at this stage.
- Pulp bacteria causes pus to form that kills a tooth’s blood vessels and nerves. This type of toothache usually causes constant pain. The most common treatment is a root canal.
- Abscesses form in tooth decay’s final stage and are the most painful. If and when the infection reaches the tooth’s root tip, the adjacent bones are also at risk for infection. Gums and tongue swelling are not uncommon. This condition often requires oral surgery.
- Tooth loss occurs when any stage of decay is left untreated.
How to Avoid Cavities and Tooth Loss
There’s a lot that goes on inside your mouth every day! Food and beverages that contain sugar or starch can cause plaque, a colorless film of bacteria, to form on your teeth. Left unattended, plaque begins to eat away at the tooth’s enamel. Though your mouth has built in defenses like saliva, which helps enamel repair itself, you usually have to help out.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse to prevent mineral loss in tooth enamel.
- Pay attention to what you eat and how often you eat during the day. Limit in-between-meal snacks, especially those that contain sugars and starches. Never eat after you’ve brushed your teeth and flossed at the end of the day.
- Get regular checkups. It’s the number one way to ensure good oral health and catch tooth decay before it turns into something serious.
Enjoy First-Class Dental Care
Caven Dental Group provides exceptional oral health treatments, including the treatment of tooth decay to patients throughout the greater Jacksonville, FL area. To learn more about all our safe and comfortable dental services, contact us today.