5 Unknown Cavity Stages Explained

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

Parts of the Tooth

Our teeth are composed of three layers, namely:

1.1. Enamel

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.

1.2. 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.

1.3. Pulp

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

cavity stages
Photo by Engin akyurt Unsplash Copyright 2021

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. 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

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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.

Here's why some people have white spots on their teeth

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 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.

Causes & management for loss of tooth enamel - Dr. Aarthi Shankar

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 1or 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.

What causes tooth decay?

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.

What happens when dental pulp gets injured? - Dr. Sowmya Vijapure

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 2or 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.

How to treat a tooth 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.

5. Tips To Help Prevent Cavities

Photo by Candid Unsplash Copyright 2021

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.

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.

5 Hidden Causes of Cavities You Probably Didn't Know!
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  1. Gao, Sherry Shiqian, et al. “Caries remineralisation and arresting effect in children by professionally applied fluoride treatment–a systematic review.” BMC oral health 16 (2016): 1-9. ↩︎
  2. Murray, C. A., and W. P. Saunders. “Root canal treatment and general health: a review of the literature.” International Endodontic Journal 33.1 (2000): 1-18. ↩︎

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Jenita T.J

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