Stages of Tooth Decay & How To Prevent It

A row of five cartoon teeth with different expressions.

Tooth decay is a very common issue. More than 80% of Americans get at least one cavity before their 30’s! Tooth decay can happen to anyone, though certain people are more at risk. What are the stages of this condition? How can decay be prevented?

    Stage 1: Demineralization

    During the first stage of decay, your enamel begins to weaken because of plaque. Plaque produces acid, which eats into the surface of your teeth. You might notice little whites spots during this stage.

    Stage 2: Enamel Decay

    As the decay gets worse, those white spots turn brown. The enamel starts to break down and cavities form.

    Stage 3: Dentin Decay

    Cavities spread from your enamel into your dentin, the layer beneath your enamel. Dentin is soft and more sensitive to acid. You’ll feel increased tooth sensitivity in this third stage. A restorative treatment like a filling solves the problem.

    Stage 4: Damaged Pulp

    The decay now moves into the pulp of your tooth, which holds your tooth’s nerves. This is when things get painful. Your tooth can begin to swell. You might also experience a bad taste in your mouth and discoloration. At this point, a root canal is often the best treatment.

    Stage 5: Abscess

    In this final stage, bacteria gets inside your cavity-damaged tooth pulp. Infections usually follow. An abscess can form at the bottom of your tooth, causing extreme pain that spreads into your gums, jaw, and face. If a root canal can’t help, we’ll likely need to extract your tooth. We might also use antibiotics to kill the infection and prevent it from spreading. Dental abscesses can become emergencies if they are not taken care of promptly.

How to Prevent Tooth Decay

While cavities are common, they aren’t inevitable! You can avoid tooth decay by maintaining a great oral hygiene routine and visiting the dentist at least twice a year. We also offer treatments like clear dental sealants, which are bacteria-blocking coatings on top of your molars. Fluoride treatments can catch tooth decay in the first stage and reverse the damage.

Comprehensive Dentistry at Santa Teresa Smiles in El Paso & Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa Smiles provides holistic dental care that focuses on your total wellness. Whether it’s been a while since your last cleaning or you’re experiencing symptoms like increased sensitivity, please contact us today! By keeping up with regular appointments with Dr. Oushy, you can prevent tooth decay and catch cavities before they become serious.