3 Stages Of Dental Decay – And How To Prevent Further Damage

The first sign of dental damage for most people is the appearance of a cavity. But there are several stages of decay. Some of these stages are entirely reversible while others will require specialized treatment from the dentist to prevent further damage to the tooth.

Here are the three main stages of dental decay, how you can prevent more decay, and the restorative and cosmetic dentistry procedures that can fix the damage.

Enamel Decay

If you go to the store and study toothpaste boxes, you will see several products claiming to repair or restore your enamel. That's not an accurate claim. Once this clear protective coating on your tooth wears through, the damaged enamel can't regenerate.

But you can use fluoride toothpaste and proper oral healthcare to protect the existing enamel. Brush at least twice a day particularly after you eat or drink any acidic foods.

Keep an eye on healthy teeth and watch for signs of chalky spots appearing on the enamel. This is the start of a bacterial demineralization and is entirely reversible through a dental cleaning and the use of fluoride products. Catching it early means you can prevent enamel decay on other teeth.

Dentin Decay

Left untreated, bacteria can eat through the enamel and continue on through the hard white dentin. This can open up a crack or cavity in the main structure of the tooth. You will need either a traditional filling or crown to fix this damage as its not reversible.

What's the difference between a filling and crown? Both can use the same composition materials such as metal amalgam or resin. But a crown is more of a tooth cap that covers more surface area while a filling seals up a hole that's deep rather than wide.

Once you have a filling or crown, you still need to practice proper oral hygiene on that tooth. Further damage to the tooth can weaken the support structure and cause the filling or crown to fall out or need repair.

Pulp Decay

An open cavity in the dentin allows bacteria to travel inside the tooth and damage the pulp in the root canal. Pulp is an important collection of nerves, blood cells, and tissue that establishes the health of both the tooth and surrounding gum tissue.

Damaged or infected pulp can cause discomfort, swelling, and a pus-filled abscess on the gums. Treatment will begin with an antibiotic to clear up the infection and drainage of any abscesses.

Next, your dentist, someone like Karla M. Kreger D.D.S., will probably recommend a root canal procedure. Your dentist will open up the top of the tooth to gain access to the root canal and infected pulp. The pulp is scraped out with a special tool and the canal is rinsed with an antibiotic solution. The dentist will then fill the canal with a biomedical plastic material and seal the tooth shut with an artificial crown.