Decay by Degrees: The Difference between Saving or Losing Teeth

Categories: General Dentistry

When we were young, we certainly felt unstoppable didn’t we? Unlimited energy to go running around, scuffed knees weren’t even a secondary thought, and if we took a tumble off of a slide or swing set, we could scramble right back up there! Not to mention our teeth. They’d just grow back, right?

If we were lucky, the tooth fairy would even give us something for the trouble!

Well, now that we’re just a bit older and wiser, we’ve learned it takes a lot more effort to take care of our bodies. We have to have a few cups of coffee to just mimic a fraction of energy we had at recess. A scuffed knee might leave us limping. And our teeth? Well, we have to take extra good care of them because our adult teeth can’t grow back.

Thankfully, maintaining a healthy smile free of tooth decay is possible. In this blog we will examine the stages of tooth decay, how to prevent it from advancing, and options for saving damaged teeth when necessary.

The Truth to Tooth Decay

For many of us, our very first visit to the dentist may involve tooth decay. In fact, it can even occur with teething infants known as “nursing caries” or “baby bottle tooth decay.” This leads to the question of why?

Arguably, the two major factors for tooth decay is the sugar content of a diet followed by dental hygiene. Our mouths house a lot of bacteria, some that can be beneficial to use to aid in digestion when food eventually reaches our stomachs.

However, sugar can cause a surge of bacteria to grow. When this occurs and dental hygiene is unable to keep a healthy balance, this will begin to cause harmful bacteria to multiply. This will not only dull your smile, but could eventually lead to infection or even tooth loss!

Tooth Decay: A Five Stage Process

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) estimates that nine out of every ten Americans adults between the ages of 20 and 60 will experience some form of tooth decay. Yikes!

However, catching this condition in the earliest stages can prevent significant harm to your oral health. So let’s go over what these stages are.

Stage 1: White Spots

As most of us know, the hard, outer layer of our teeth is called the enamel and protects our teeth. Unlike soft tissue, enamel cannot be replenished or “healed.” Once it is worn away, it is gone for good. If bacteria or plaque build up begins to wear away at our enamel, it can create very fine, often hard to notice “white spots” on our enamel in a process called dematerialization.

Now, you may be thinking how absurd that is! Looking for white spots—on teeth? We understand that might seem hard to do, but that is why it is important to schedule regular dental visits every six months so your dental team can help.

Stage 2: Enamel Decay

This second stage of enamel decay is where the integrity of your tooth truly begins to suffer. With the mineral loss having advanced to this stage, you may begin to notice brown spots or discoloration on your tooth where the decay has taken hold. This means a cavity has or is likely forming.

Stage 3: Dentin Decay

Underneath the enamel of our teeth is a layer of supportive tissue called dentin. By the time tooth decay exposes this layer of our tooth, cavities have formed and may be causing discomfort or pain. Worse yet, it is putting the interior of our teeth at risk of infection!

Stages 4 and 5: Infection

When left untreated, tooth decay and the cavities will erode the protective layers of your tooth and allow harmful bacteria to enter the soft tissue which can be the pulp, the chamber, or even the roots. These infections are incredibly dangerous, some even growing into blisters known as abscesses, which can put more than your oral health in danger.

Tips for a Beaming Smile

While it is true that the majority of Americans may experience some form of tooth decay in their lifetime, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a beaming smile! Here are just a few friendly reminders that will help keep your teeth healthy and bright.

  • Don’t use mouthwash right after brushing. Most toothpaste has fluoride that helps enamel and needs a few moments to do its job. So brush, wait a minute or two, then rinse.
  • Focus on your gums as much as your teeth. Bacteria and plaque will form on the soft tissue of your mouth first. If you notice any sensitivity or irregularity on your gums, that may be a sign your teeth are in trouble.
  • Don’t be a stranger! It is recommended to visit your dentist every six months so we provide you with peace of mind and prevent any danger to your dental health before it occurs.

Maintain a Brilliant Smile by Contacting Us Today

From the latest in airway orthodontics for a good night’s sleep to routine dental cleanings for battling tooth decay, your friends at Fairchance Dental Arts are here to help. After all, this is your home for a beaming smile! Contact our office today and learn how our variety of services can provide you with the dental health you deserve.