Hamilton: (706) 628-0011

The 4 Stages of Tooth Decay in Harris County

We all know that cavities are bad, but do you know exactly what a cavity is? How does tooth decay form and progress? Does your dentist treat them all the same way? What can you do to stop tooth decay before it advances too far? To answer your questions, check out this helpful information about the stages of tooth decay in Harris County and how to treat it at each stage.

Background Information

The bacteria that live in your mouth feed on the food particles that are left behind when you eat. They create acids that attack the tooth, eventually causing decay.

Stage 1: Initial Lesions and White Spots

As the white and sticky substance that houses bacteria, plaque can build up on your teeth, forming white spots, especially near the gumline and in between teeth. Over time, these spots can harden into tartar and become more difficult to remove. While these spots develop, the acids from the bacteria erode the surface, causing tiny lesions in the enamel—perfect places for more food particles and bacteria to accumulate.

With proper daily brushing, flossing, and using a fluoride mouthwash and visiting your dentist in Harris County twice a year for checkups and cleanings, it is very possible to eradicate the problem during this stage.

Stage 2: Enamel Decay

If bacteria are allowed to remain on your teeth, their acids continue to deepen and expand the lesions in your tooth’s enamel. Often these lesions take on a darker color, making them more visible. A cavity has now formed.

At this point, natural remineralization is no longer possible, and the lesions become permanent. However, the dentist can fill in the cavity after removing the decayed part, and with proper oral care, you can protect against further damage.

Stage 3: Dentin Decay

As the acids continue to penetrate the tooth, the dentin or softer yellow layer of the tooth is the next part affected. This layer consists of tubes that connect to the center of the tooth, or the pulp, where the tooth’s nerves are located. When decay reaches the dentin, you may experience sensitivity to heat and cold or a dull toothache.

The dentist will need to fill a cavity or perform root canal therapy when dentin decay happens, depending on the extent of the damage.

Stage 4: Pulpal Decay

After the soft dentin, the fleshy layer of pulp can become infected. When this happens, you would likely experience severe pain, throbbing in the infected area, and difficulty eating. Even if you are able to bear the pain, serious health risks come up at this point.  For example, abscesses can form in the gums, which can be very painful and dangerous.

In most cases, a root canal can address the problem, saving the natural tooth. In more severe cases, the tooth may need to be extracted.

The most efficient, and certainly the less painful, way to deal with tooth decay is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Take the necessary steps in your daily and semiannual oral routine to stop decay before it has a chance to start. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy your happy and healthy smile for years to come!

About the Practice

At Hamilton Family Dentistry, enhancing each patient’s experience is at the heart of all they do. From the high-tech equipment to the welcoming and friendly staff, the entire practice has been designed to make patients feel at ease in the dentist’s chair. The dentists have the experience and knowledge to treat patients of all ages and with any dental need. To contact them for an appointment, you can call (706) 628-0011 or click here.