Ever wonder why your dentist and hygienist constantly promote practices and products to prevent plaque build-up on your teeth? The reason is simple: Tooth decay begins with plaque, a thin film of bacteria that continuously builds up on the teeth.
Your Guide To Tooth Decay Stages
If not stopped, plaque, or biofilm, plays havoc with your mouth in an ever-evolving manner:
- Plaque bacteria combine with sugar to produce acids in your mouth.
- If allowed to accumulate, the acids gradually damage tooth enamel and lead to cavities.
- If you don't treat the cavities, decay worsens over time. And more advanced tooth decay stages require more extensive treatments.
If plaque gets a toehold, be aware of the various stages of tooth decay. Even better, learn how you can join your dentist and hygienist in stopping plaque and tooth decay.
First Signs of Tooth Decay
When tooth decay first develops, it can look like a brown or white spot on the tooth. This discoloration occurs when the enamel softens.
Unfortunately, since early tooth decay might not have any symptoms, detection can only happen during a dental check-up. That's why it's important to schedule regular dentist visits.
Before you develop a cavity at this early stage, there's still a chance tooth decay can be stopped or even reversed. To accomplish this, your dentist might recommend treatments to:
If you don't seek treatment promptly for tooth decay, you might experience stages that require more intensive dental work, increased sensitivity, pain, and worse.
However, depending on what point your teeth are in a decay stage, there might be treatments available.
Cavity Stages: If early-stage tooth decay isn't treated, the softened enamel starts to break down, resulting in a cavity.
At this point, it might not be possible to reverse the damage to the tooth. However, your dentist can help you prevent further decay with various treatments.
If you think you have a cavity, see your dentist right away. Treatment depends on the size and location of the cavity.
Your dentist might recommend a filling, which involves removing the decayed portion of the tooth and restoring the area with a filling material. Larger cavities, though, might require crowns, tooth-coloured caps that completely cover the teeth.
Dentin Decay Stages: If left untreated, your cavity can spread deeper into the tooth. It might reach the dentin, the sensitive tooth layer beneath the enamel.
You don't want the dentin decay to spread even further. If it does, dentin decay can reach the pulp, the location of your tooth's nerves, and blood vessels.
According to the Indian Dental Association, the most common symptom of a decayed tooth is a severe toothache. Other symptoms you may notice include gum inflammation/swelling, tenderness with touch, pus drainage or open sore in mouth, breath odour, sensitivity to hot or cold, shooting or throbbing pain when chewing, pits or holes may also be visible in the teeth, swelling in upper or lower jaw, redness of mouth or face, swollen neck glands, nausea and fever.
If untreated decay symptoms are bad, the resulting complications might involve surgery or other invasive treatments.
If untreated, severe tooth decay can result in an infection. Practo explains that a dental abscess is a pus pocket associated with a specific damaged tooth. Most instances are either periapical abscess or a periodontal abscess. Periapical abscess is the outcome of a prolonged infection at the very tip of a tooth root.
According to e-Dant Seva, common signs and symptoms of Abscess includes throbbing pain and swelling, warmth around the area and if it perforates sinus drainage is present. Therefore timely treatment is important to prevent the pus from spreading into surrounding vital structures and serious complications.
Tooth loss is another possible complication of untreated decay.
Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of tooth decay with some lifestyle actions.
Start an oral hygiene routine: It only takes five minutes a day to spend on your teeth.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Rinse when a fluoride mouthwash, especially if your dentist recommends it.
Eat a tooth-healthy diet: The Indian Dental Association notes that oral health is related to diet in many ways, for example, nutrition influences craniofacial development, oral cancer and oral infectious diseases. There is a need to understand the relationships between nutrition and oral health and apply this knowledge to improve personal care.
- Eat fruits and vegetables, especially those of the fibre-rich variety, to get healthy saliva flowing.
- Consume dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, and milk. Another saliva generator, dairy, also supplies needed vitamins and minerals for tooth enamel.
- Avoid sugary foods, such as cake and cookies. Can't avoid them? Then eat them during meals when your mouth makes more saliva, which helps in reducing acid. Also, brush after eating these foods.
- Avoid starchy foods, such as chips, which can cling to teeth and contribute to plaque build-up. Can't avoid them? You know what to do: Brush after eating them.
Ask your dentist for more information about tooth-healthy food choices.
Have regular dental check-ups: As you've read, these visits are crucial so your dentist can identify early-stage tooth decay and treat it before it gets worse.
However, if you suspect you might have a cavity now, see your dentist immediately. Oral care in the first stage of tooth decay is essential to your overall health.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.