When the enamel begins to decompose, the teeth begin to decay, thereby forming pockets of decay on the surface of the teeth. Decay is caused by the acidic destruction on the tooth surface caused by bacteria living in dental plaque. Dental plaque is a viscous film formed by the remaining proteins in carbohydrate foods metabolized in saliva. Some forms of tooth decay can be treated by maintaining good oral care habits and visiting a dental professional on a regular basis.
Stage 1: White Spots
The first stage of tooth decay begins in the chalky white area on the tooth surface, which is caused by the loss of calcium and the accumulation of dental plaque. Then, the bacteria in the plaque begin to metabolize the sugars in the food they consume. The accumulation of these acids can make your tooth enamel worse.
At this stage, if proper treatment is given, tooth decay may still be reversed with the use of appropriate brushing techniques, fluoride toothpaste, and topical fluoridation treatment and discussed with your dentist as early as possible. One of the best ways to prevent plaque buildup is to brush your teeth with a toothbrush at least twice or use an electric toothbrush.
Stage Two: Enamel Decay
In the second stage of tooth decay, the enamel begins to crack below the surface of the tooth. At this stage, the natural remineralization process cannot restore proper tooth enamel and minerals, which leads to the formation of lesions in the tooth. As the decay continues, the surface of the tooth may crack, which is irreversible. If your tooth is broken, you should seek dental care immediately.
Stage Three: Dentin Decay
The third stage of tooth decay is also called dentin decay. If left untreated, bacteria and acid will continue to dissolve the tooth enamel, and the lesions may enter the dentin. Dentin is a part of the tooth that exists between the enamel and the pulp. Once the tooth decay has moved to the dentin, the pain will begin to increase, and the infected tooth may experience severe pain. When the loss of calcium and phosphate minerals weakens a sufficient amount of underground enamel, the enamel can collapse and form tooth cavities. At this point, dental fillings are most likely to be needed to restore the teeth.
Stage Four: Involvement of The Pulp
The pulp is considered to be the center of the tooth. It is composed of living tissues and cells called odontoblasts. Dental pulp cells produce dentin, which acts as connective tissue between enamel and dental pulp. If the pulp of a tooth is infected by bacteria, pus will form, which will inadvertently kill the blood vessels and nerves of the tooth. This is commonly referred to as toothache and can cause constant pain. At this stage, the most common treatment is root canal therapy.
Stage Five: Abscess Formation
Abscess formation is the final stage of tooth decay, and it is by far the most painful stage. Once the infection reaches the root tip of the tooth, the connected bones are also at risk of infection. Gums and tongue are often swollen, which may affect speech and put you at risk for other diseases. At this stage, other oral surgery may be required.