Do you know that out of 7.9 billion people in the world almost 30% which is 2.3 billion people are suffering from tooth decay? Can we do something to prevent or even treat the tooth decay? The answer is YES. If you know what stages are in the tooth decay and carry out necessary precautions and seek treatments earlier, we can actually stop the progress of decay and actually prevent it from happening. Today we’ll explore the different stages of tooth decay and how they are being treated and give you some tips on how to prevent the tooth decays.
Generally speaking there are five stages of tooth decay.
Stage one, which is the initial demineralization or the white spot lesion.
This happens when the tooth is exposed to the acid produced by the plaque bacteria. The enamel, which is the outermost layer of the teeth, begins to lose its mineral and when this occurs you will see no hole by a white spot appear on your teeth. This area of mineral loss is the beginning of the tooth decay and you won’t feel any pain in this early stage.
Stage two, which is the enamel decay.
If the process of tooth decay is allowed to continue, enamel will breakdown further. You may notice the white spot on your tooth darkens to a brown color as enamel is weakened, a small hole in your teeth called cavity or dental caries can form here. You won’t feel any pain too because enamel does not contain any nerves. However, the cavities need to be filled by a dentist to prevent it from becoming bigger.
Stage three, which is the dentine decay.
Dentine is the second layer of the tooth and the tissue that lies underneath the enamel. It’s softer than enamel, which makes it more sensitive to damage by the acid. Because of this the tooth decay progresses at a faster rate when it reaches the dentine. The dentine also contain tubes, channels that leads to the nerves of the tooth. Because of this when the dentine is affected by the tooth decay you may begin experiencing sensitivity. You may notice this particularly by having hot or cold food or drinks, sweet food or cold air when jogging.
Stage four, which is the pulp damage.
Pulp is the innermost layer of your tooth. It contains nerves and blood vessels to help to keep the tooth healthy. The nerves in the pulp also provide sensation to the tooth. When damage to the pulp happens, it may become irritated and start to swell. Because the surrounding tissues in the tooth can’t expand to accommodate this swelling, pressure may be placed on the nerves and this may lead to pain. Usually you may feel the dull-aching pain that may last over a period of time, becoming worse especially when you lie down or the pain may be very severe until it wakes you up from sleep.
Stage five is the abscess.
As the tooth decay advances into the pulp, bacteria can invade and cause an infection. Increased inflammation in the tooth can lead to the pocket of pus forming at the bottom of your tooth, called an abscess. Tooth abscess may cause severe pain that may radiate into the jaw. Other symptoms may be present for example: like swelling of the gums, face of jaw, fever and swollen lymph nodes in your neck. A tooth abscess requires prompt treatment as the infection can spread into the jaw bone as well as other areas in the head and neck. In some cases, the treatment will be involved removing the affected tooth.
The treatment that’s recommended for tooth decay can depends on its stage.
For stage one, the initial demineralization, is actually a reversible stage, where the tooth decay may be reversed before more permanent damage occurs. These can be achieved by treating the teeth with fluoride. You can receive a fluoride treatment at your dentist’s office. It’s often applied to your teeth in the form of a gel or varnish. Fluoride works to strengthen the enamel, making it more resistant to attack by acids produced by the bacteria. The fluoride can be found in some toothpaste as well as in the tap water.
Stage two, which is the enamel decay. When the tooth decay enters this stage, cavities are often present. Fillings are used to treat cavities. When giving a filling, a dentist will first use a tool to clean away the areas of the decay then they’ll fill the hole with a material such as resin, which is the tooth-color filling or amalgam, which is the silver-color filling.
Stage three, which is the dentine decay. Because dentine is softer than enamel, the decay moves as a faster rate when it enters the dentine. If identified early, dentine decay may be treated with a filling; in more advanced cases, placement of a crown may be needed. A crown is a covering that covers the top part of the tooth above the gums. The decay area is removed before the crown is placed. Some healthy tooth structure may be removed as well to make sure the crown fits well onto your tooth.
For stage four is the pulp damage. When you reach this stage you often need a root canal treatment. In a root canal treatment, the damaged pulp is removed, the root canal is then cleaned and filled in. A crown is then placed on the affected tooth.
The final stage is the condition with abscess. If an abscess has formed in your tooth your dentist will likely perform root canal treatment to remove the infection and seal the tooth. In some severe cases the affected tooth may need to be removed completely.
If you practice good oral hygiene you can actually keep your teeth healthy as long as you live. Here are some tips for you to implement to help avoid damage to your teeth from tooth decay.
- See your dentist at least once a year for routine examination and cleaning. Your dentist can identify and treat the tooth decay at an early stage before it gets worse.
- Ask about sealants. Sealants are thin coating of plastics that apply to the grooves of the tooth especially the molars.
- It is recommended to floss your teeth at least once a day and brush at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste.
- Try to avoid taking food and drinks with a high amount of sugar. Some examples like cookies, candies and soft drinks.
- Instead take in more food such as fresh fruits and vegetables to increase the saliva flow and unsweetened coffee, tea and sugar-free gum to wash away the food particles.
- Drink from the boiled tap water but not the distilled water. The tap water contains fluoride which can help to keep enamel strong and protect it from decay.
- Avoid snacking in between meals as this can give the bacteria in your mouth even more sugars to convert into acids.