Understanding the Five Stages of Tooth Decay
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 in your
children. There’s always a lot going on in that little 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 your child’s 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 excavate the tooth.
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 your child will need
to have the cavity corrected with a filling.
Stage Three: Dentin Decay
If a cavity in your child’s mouth were to progress beyond stage two without you
knowing, you’d tend to 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 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 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. The swelling would be commonplace and pain severe. In
children (as well as adults) an abscess can be fatal if not dealt with immediately.
Root canal or extraction would be the order of the day should decay reach this
stage. Need to see us? Schedule your appointment today by giving us a call at 585-
671-9580 or through our website at julianofamilydental.com.
As you can see, cavities don’t happen overnight. In the early stages, regular visits
can stall and reverse the progression of these dastardly little devils, so it really does
pay to visit the dentist at pre-selected intervals. You can keep your kids far from
stage five their whole lives, and if a little bit of prodding to get them to the dentist
accomplishes that, you can rest easy despite the griping.