Various Stages of Tooth Decay and How You Can Prevent It


18 November 2022

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Tooth decay can usually occur due to bacteria resulting in plaque build-up on your teeth. When left untreated, it can potentially lead to cavities, dental abscesses, or even tooth loss. The bacteria present in plaque have the ability to convert sugars present in the food you eat into acids. In case plaque is allowed to build up over time, these acids can slowly start to damage your teeth and gums. 

This is the main reason why good oral hygiene is recommended for preventing dental issues related to tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs in several stages, leading to severe oral health problems such as tooth loss and gum disease. This guide will help you understand the various stages of tooth decay and some practices that can help prevent it from damaging your teeth.

Tooth Decay: General Stages

Dental plaque is the major aspect responsible for the start of the tooth decay process. Basically, plaque is a colourless, sticky film that covers the surface of your teeth. It is made up of food particles, bacteria, and saliva. 

In case your teeth aren’t cleaned regularly or not taken care of, plaque can start to build up. Over time, plaque can harden up and start to form tartar. Tartar creates a healthy environment for the bacteria to grow to make them even more difficult to remove. 

Generally, there are 5 stages of tooth decay that can ultimately create dental health issues. Let’s go through each one of them step-by-step. 

1. Mineral Loss

Enamel is the tissue covering the outer layer of your teeth. Being the hardest tissue in your body, it is mostly made up of minerals acting as a covering to protect your teeth. But when teeth are exposed to acids produced by plaque, enamel starts to lose its minerals. 

The most common observation of enamel losing minerals is a white spot appearing on one of your teeth. This white spot area indicates an initial sign of tooth decay and can be considered its first stage.

2. Weakened Enamel

 When the initial sign of tooth decay is ignored and allowed to continue, enamel starts breaking down even further. The white spot on the tooth might darken to a brownish colour indicating enamel decay.  

Weakened enamels can now lead to the formation of small holes called cavities or dental caries. Cavities need to be filled by a dentist to avoid further problems. 

3. Dental Decay

Under enamel lies a tissue called dentin. As it is softer than enamel, it is more likely to be affected by the acids. This causes a faster rate of the progress of teeth decay when it reaches the dentin.

Tubes that lead to the nerves of the tooth are situated in dentin. This is why when dentin is affected by tooth decay, you may start experiencing sensitivity. It is highly intensified while having hot food or cold drinks. 

4. Pulp Damage  

The innermost layer of your tooth is called the pulp. Nerves and blood vessels that keep the tooth healthy are present in the pulp. In fact, the nerves present in the tooth are responsible to provide sensation to the tooth. 

When the pulp is damaged, it may lead to swelling and become irritated. As the surrounding tissues in the tooth can’t expand to keep up with the swelling, it directly creates pressure upon the nerves. This can lead to tooth pain. 

5. Abscess

Once tooth decay starts expanding to the pulp, bacteria can start causing infection. Tooth inflammation can directly lead to a pocket of pus at the bottom of your tooth called an abscess. Severe pain can radiate into the jaw due to tooth abscesses. There are several other symptoms such as swelling on the gums, fever, jaw pain and swollen lymph nodes around your neck that indicate tooth abscess. 

A tooth abscess requires ideal dental treatment as there’s a risk of infection spreading into the bones of your jaw and other areas of your neck and hand. Some emergency cases may even involve the removal of the affected tooth. 

Prevention of Tooth Decay

The most effective way to prevent tooth decay is to follow good oral hygiene. Here are some tips that will not only help prevent tooth decay but also ensure that your teeth and gums stay healthy. 

Visit your dentist regularly: Your dentist can identify and treat tooth decay at its early stage before it gets worse. Make sure to visit your dentist regularly for general dental checkups to prevent the harmful effects of tooth decay. 
Regular brushing: Dentists recommend brushing at least twice a day to ensure healthy teeth and gums. Using a fluorinated brush is an effective solution. 
Limit foods high in sugar: Avoid consuming food or drinks that contain high amounts of sugar. Some examples are candies, cookies and chocolates, etc. 
Prefer tap water: Mostly, tap water is high in fluoride beneficial for enamel health protecting it from decay. 
Limit Snacks: Try avoiding between-meal snacks as they can contribute to more sugars converting into acid.
Use Sealants: A thin coating of plastic applied at the tops of your back teeth (molars) are called sealants. Molars are vital for chewing but food particles are likely to get trapped between them. Sealants can help prevent this from happening and avoid tooth decay. 
Want to Make Sure That Your Teeth Are Safe From Tooth Decay?

As we discussed, tooth decay can develop over 5 stages. Avoiding tooth decay leads to the risk of cavity formation, gum disease and tooth loss. Therefore, it is important to follow a healthy dental care routine to prevent tooth decay. 

Rouse Hill Smiles provides a wide range of professional dental care services such as children’s dentistry, general dentistry, dental implants and teeth whitening solutions at affordable prices. 

Visit: to make an appointment today! 

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