If you are someone who experiences recurrent pain in your teeth, there are chances that you may be suffering from tooth decay.
A cavity or decay is a damaged area of your teeth that later develops into tiny openings or holes. They are caused due to a lot of reasons like the presence of bacteria in our mouth, frequent snacking and drinking products that are high in sugar, no proper oral hygiene, and many other factors.
In today’s world, cavities and tooth decay are among the most common problems people face, and it is restricted to one section and affects everyone who has teeth.
In case cavities are not treated properly, they may get bigger and penetrate the inside layers of our teeth, leading to severe pain and even tooth loss in some cases. Tooth decay usually evolves through different cavity stages, and every level requires the individuals to go through various treatments.
1. Know Your Teeth
Our teeth are composed of three layers, namely:
The tooth enamel is the outermost layer of your teeth and contains a lot of minerals. These minerals protect our teeth from damage that is most often caused by plaque and bacteria. Enamel is also the reason for white teeth. When the white layer of the enamel fades away, it shows the yellow layer of the teeth called the dentin.
The dentin layer is the second layer found right under the enamel. The colour of the dentin usually ranges from grey, black or pale yellow. When exposed to acidic food, temperature changes, and high-sugar foods, the dentin layer can cause severe sensitivity.
The pulp is the tissue present at the centre of the tooth’s surface. It is also where the nerve endings and blood vessels are present, making it the most sensitive tooth layer.
The cavity or tooth decay originates when the enamel of our teeth starts to break down, causing holes in the tooth’s surface. The cavity stages then start to gradually make their way to the other layers of our teeth.
2. There Are Three Types of Cavities
Smooth surface cavities occur on the smooth sides of our teeth and root cavities develop over the root’s surface. And lastly, pit and fissure cavities, arise on the chewing surface of our teeth.
3. Symptoms Of Cavity
The signs and symptoms of a dental cavity vary greatly from one person to another, depending on the extent of the decay. However, some of the common symptoms experienced by individuals include:
- Sensitivity in tooth
- Toothache, recurrent pain with no apparent reason
- Black or brown stains on the tooth’s surface
- Pain while eating or biting
- Noticeable holes or pits on the tooth’s surface
It is important to note that there may be no evident signs or symptoms in the beginning cavity stages. Only after the decay evolves and becomes evident may one start to notice the signs mentioned above.
4. Five Different Cavity Stages In An Individual
4.1. White Spots
White spots are the first stage among the other cavity stages. In this stage, white spots start appearing on our tooth surface. These spots occur due to calcium loss and plaque metabolizing from the high sugar levels consumed by us daily.
As a part of the metabolic process, the bacteria start to produce acids. These acids begin to attack the enamel of our teeth, causing them to deteriorate badly.
Since this is the beginning stage of tooth decay, with proper dental treatment, tooth decay at this stage is still reversible. Using fluoride toothpaste can remineralize the mineral and stop a cavity.
4.2. Enamel Decay
The second stage among the different cavity stages is enamel decay; in this stage, the enamel gradually starts to break down under the tooth’s surface. Once the tooth’s enamel starts to decay and if our body is incapable of restoring the minerals, it leads to the formation of a lesion.
As the decay evolves, the tooth’s surface starts breaking, resulting in a hole or cavity in the tooth. However, you can prevent the damage caused by this stage by approaching a dentist at the earliest signs of enamel decay. A dental professional can protect our teeth from possible damage in the future by using fluoride treatments or other ideal methods.
4.3. Dentin Decay
The next one among the different cavity stages is the decay of the dentin layer. When the lesion is not treated correctly, the damage slowly makes its way to the next layer of the teeth, known as the dentin layer.
The dentin is an integral part of our tooth that is located between the enamel and pulp. Once the decay reaches the dentin layer, it starts to spread rapidly as the dentin layer is softer and less mineralized, unlike our tooth’s enamel.
At this stage, the dental enamel witnesses the loss of minerals like calcium and phosphate, which leads to the collapse of the enamel and the formation of a cavity.
It is necessary to approach a dentist for a dental filling at this stage, which will help restore the decaying tooth and restore it.
4.4. Decay Reaches The Pulp
The fourth stage of tooth decay is where the decay slowly enters the pulp, located at the centre of our tooth and contains our tooth’s blood vessels and nerves. Unlike the other cavity stages, it is at this stage the pain starts to become significant.
When the pulp of the tooth gets affected by bacteria, it leads to abscesses, which can cause unbearable pain. In some cases, it can lead to swelling of the gums and face.
The fourth stage is quite severe, and the only way to save your teeth is by receiving a root canal procedure or any other appropriate treatment suggested by the dentist.
4.5. Formation Of The Abscess
The last and final stage of all the cavity stages is abscess formation. At this stage, the dental decay has reached beyond the pulp, causing the formation of an abscess.
An abscess or pus formation is an infection of the root of the teeth, and it further affects the nearby tissues and the bone structure of our teeth. It also causes swelling of the teeth leading to unbearable pain.
This stage is considered the most fatal of all cavity stages as abscess formation in teeth can be life-threatening and quickly spread to other parts of our body. Therefore, one should visit a dentist as soon as decay reaches this stage.
Read more about cavity stages.
5. Tips To Help Prevent Cavities
Cavities and tooth decay can be kept at bay by following good oral and proper dental hygiene. Here are some simple tips to take appropriate care of your teeth and prevent the cavity stages from evolving further
5.1. Brushing Your Teeth
Brush your teeth at least twice a day and preferably after every meal of yours. Use toothpaste and mouthwashes that contain fluoride, and to clean between your teeth, floss daily with the help of an interdental cleaner.
5.2. Visiting to the Dentist Regularly
Don’t forget to pay a visit to the dentist regularly. Make sure to get regular checkups to spot any kinds of decay at the earliest and prevent them from worsening further.
5.3. Avoid Constant Snacking
Whenever you eat or drink food high in sugar products, the bacteria in your mouth create acids that can destroy your tooth’s enamel. If you are constantly eating and drinking throughout the day, your teeth are continuously attacked by acids.
5.4. Dental Sealants
One can also opt for dental sealants, a type of protective plastic coating applied on the back of the tooth’s surface. They protect the enamel of the tooth and act as barriers that fight against acid and plaque. Dental sealants usually last for a more extended period but require checkups.
5.5. Rinse Your Mouth
Ensure to rinse your mouth with a mouthwash containing fluoride if you feel you are at a high risk of developing dental cavities.
5..6. Eat Healthy Foods
Eat foods that are considered healthy for your teeth, stay away from foods that can get stuck between the gaps and bit of your teeth, or brush your teeth as soon as you eat them. Remember that foods like fresh vegetables and fruits will increase our saliva flow.
5.7. Fluoride Treatments
If you think you are not getting enough fluoride through mouthwash, toothpaste, or other sources, go for fluoride treatments. A dental professional may recommend appropriate fluoride treatments.
5.8. Antibacterial Treatments
Consider antibacterial treatments if your teeth are vulnerable to cavities or decay because of any specific medical conditions. This treatment method can significantly cut down the harmful bacteria that reside in our mouths.
6. In the End
A cavity does not magically appear overnight. Instead, the cavity stages evolve gradually. It is essential to visit the dentist regularly and maintain good oral health regularly. By taking appropriate measures, one can keep these unwanted problems at bay.
Read here to know more.
7. Frequently Asked Questions
7.1. At What Stage Can a Cavity Be Reversed?
A cavity can usually be reversed if it’s caught at the onset or early stages of the demineralization process, the first step of tooth decay.
7.2. Can Coconut Oil Remove Cavities?
Yes and no. It will reverse the effects of dental decay in the enamel layer of the tooth, but once bacteria have infected the next layer of the tooth, the tooth will require treatment by a dentist.
7.3. Can a Cavity Fully Heal?
Enamel can repair itself by using minerals from saliva, and fluoride from toothpaste or other sources. But if the tooth decay process continues, more minerals are lost. Over time, the enamel is weakened and destroyed, forming a cavity. A cavity is a permanent damage that a dentist has to repair with a filling.
Dr. Foram Bhuta