Understanding the Different Stages of Tooth Decay

Needless to say most people would rather avoid tooth decay – but unfortunately it is an ever-present risk. While it is possible to minimize that risk by taking the appropriate measures, at some point or other you may very well still find yourself with a cavity which is why it can help to understand the different stages that led up to it.

Formation of Plaque

Essentially tooth decay always starts with the bits of food that stay behind as leftovers in your mouth. Sometimes these food particles may be on the surface of your teeth, and at other times they may be stuck between the gaps in your teeth – but wherever they are, they will interact with the bacteria and acid in your mouth to create plaque.

Once plaque is formed it will manifest as a coating over your teeth that will slowly but surely start to harden into tartar. When plaque is soft and newly formed it can be simply brushed off or flossed out, but once it hardens it becomes more difficult to remove and may require scaling to do so. Also it starts to a haven for bacteria and acid to accumulate and slowly but surely begin to erode the outer layer of your teeth known as the enamel.

Tooth Erosion

The erosion of your teeth may start in the enamel, but once it gets past that it will start to develop faster – which is generally when it is known as a cavity. The interior of your teeth (i.e. the dentin and pulp) is much softer and bacteria and acid will eat through it at a much faster rate.

Eventually your teeth will have eroded to the point where the nerves and blood vessels become exposed – which is when you might start to feel a toothache or notice that your teeth are sensitive. Depending on the position of the cavity you may even feel a sharp pain when you bite down as well as other symptoms.

Because of the buildup of bacteria, your gums could also become infected in some way. That can lead to far more serious issues if left untreated and even cause you to lose several teeth in the process.

Once the tooth decay reaches the root, the only way to deal with it is by completely removing the nerves, blood vessels and other soft tissue that is infected in the tooth. That process is known as a root canal and it is probably something that you’d prefer to avoid. If the cavity is treated before it reaches that stage then it the part of the tooth that is decaying can be removed and filled in or covered with a crown.

Assuming you suspect that your teeth are decaying, it is best to visit your dentist as soon as you can. The earlier you’re able to catch any tooth decay, the better off you’ll be and the easier it will be to treat it. Of course, prevention is better than cure which is why brushing up your oral hygiene routine is essential as well.

Blog post kindly created By Shields Dental, a dental practice in Limerick, Ireland:

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