Have you ever wondered what the stages of tooth decay are? After all, cavities don’t just happen overnight, and no one needs a root canal for no reason! Tooth decay is dangerous and can result in cavities, abscesses, or even tooth loss. But what causes tooth decay in the first place?
The answer is a bad bacteria that can live in dental plaque. Plaque is the sticky film that covers the surfaces of your teeth. It is a combination of bacteria, food particles, and saliva. The bacteria in plaque feed on the sugars in the food you eat and produce acid. And as the plaque builds up over time, these acids can begin to damage your teeth.
Controlling the plaque build up in your mouth is a vital step in preventing tooth decay. Tooth decay happens over time in several stages:
- Demineralization - The enamel of your teeth are the hardest tissues in your body -- but when they are exposed to acids, they will begin to demineralize and white spots will appear.
- Enamel Decay - Once the enamel begins to decay, the white spots begin to turn brown--indicating enamel decay.
- Dentin Decay - Underneath the enamel is a tissue called dentin. It is more susceptible to acid damage and decay will speed up once it reaches the dentin.
- Pulp Damage - The innermost layer of the tooth is called pulp. It contains the nerves and the blood vessels of the tooth and keep it alive.
- Abscess - When tooth decay reaches the pulp, bacteria can get into the innermost part of the tooth and cause infections. Inflammation in the tooth can cause a pocket to form and this is called an abscess. It is painful and can cause fever, swelling and bone loss.