Healthy teeth play a crucial role in both our physical and mental health. Furthermore, teeth also influence our appearance, affect our smile, and are essential for eating and speaking without discomfort.
Despite knowing how crucial teeth are for our overall appearance and health, unfortunately, many people fail to address tooth decay until it’s too late. It is essential to consult a dentist if one or more teeth are decaying. The sooner you realize it, the better it is for your oral health.
Often deep tooth decay leads to tooth extraction. However, there are other treatments also available to replace your damaged tooth. So, is it possible to save a badly decayed tooth?
How does tooth decay occur?
Decayed Tooth is damage to your teeth, potentially resulting in cavities, dental abscesses, or tooth loss in some cases. Bacteria present in dental plaque cause tooth decay.
The bacteria in plaque convert the sugars present in your food into acids. These acids will begin to damage your teeth if you allow plaque to build up over time. Therefore, good oral health is pivotal in preventing your teeth from decaying.
Tooth decay occurs in various stages. Let us explore these stages and find out how you can stop tooth decay from spreading.
What are the different stages of tooth decay?
Dental plaque is a colourless, sticky film that covers the surface of your teeth, made up of bacteria, food particles and saliva. Plaque builds up gradually if your teeth are not regularly cleaned.
Tooth decay occurs in five different stages in general.
Stage 1: Initial demineralization (White spots)
The outer layer of your teeth is made of a tissue called enamel, mainly made up of minerals. The enamel loses these minerals when a tooth is exposed to acids produced by bacteria.
You may see a white spot on one of your teeth, indicating the initial stage of tooth decay.
Initial demineralization is reversed by treating the teeth with fluoride. Fluoride strengthens the enamel and makes it more resistant to the acids generated by plaque bacteria.
Stage 2: Enamel decay
Your enamel will break down further if you allow the tooth decay process to continue. The white spots on teeth will soon darken to a brownish colour. It can result in cavities as the enamel is weakened.
Dentists use fillings to treat cavities.
Stage 3: Dentin decay
Dentin is a tissue lying under the enamel. It is softer than enamel; therefore, tooth decay occurs faster on reaching dentin.
You may experience sensitivity when having hot or cold food or drinks once the dentin is affected by tooth decay.
Dentin decay is possible to treat with Fillings in the early stage, or the dentist may suggest placing crowns in more advanced cases.
Before placing the crowns, the decayed area is removed first, and if necessary, some healthy tooth tissue may also be removed to ensure that the crowns fit nicely into your mouth.
Stage 4: Pulp damage
The innermost layer of your teeth contains the nerves and blood vessels that keep the tooth healthy. The layer is known as the pulp.
When the pulp layer is damaged, it may swell, hurting you significantly. You will need a root canal treatment that removes damaged pulp, and the crown will be placed on the affected tooth.
Stage 5: Abscess
Bacteria can invade and cause infection if the tooth decay begins to advance into the pulp. Increased inflammation in the tooth can cause a pocket of pus to form at the bottom of your tooth, known as an abscess.
Tooth decay can cause severe pain that may even radiate into the jaw. If an abscess is formed in your tooth, your dentist will primarily perform a root canal treatment to seal the tooth after removing the infection. In severe cases, the affected tooth may also need to be removed.
What you should do
If you experience pain or swelling, immediately visit your dentist and see what they say. If the dentist spots cavity or tooth decay, they will usually recommend you a filling as the best treatment option.
Sometimes tooth decay is unavoidable even after having great at-home oral hygiene; in such cases, dental checkups every six months can help identify and address decay at its initial stages.