Stages of Tooth Decay

In the early stage of a tooth decay, a visible white spot may appear, which is due to mineral loss. If decay is addressed at this stage, it may still be possible to repair the enamel with fluoride from toothpaste, minerals from saliva, or other sources. If decay is not addressed and more minerals are lost, the enamel will continue to weaken, and a cavity will develop. Once a cavity has developed, it will be necessary to have a filling placed.

In the early stage of tooth decay, you may not exhibit any symptoms depending on where the tooth decay is occurring and its severity. As the decay progresses, you may develop the following symptoms:

  • Pain, especially when biting
  • Toothache
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Bad breath
  • Grey, brown, or black spots on the surface of your teeth
  • Visible pits or holes in your teeth
  • Discomfort when eating or drinking cold or hot foods or beverages
  • Unpleasant taste in mouth

Complications of Tooth Decay

Because they are so common, many people do not take development of tooth decay and cavities seriously, but there are serious and potentially long-lasting complications that can occur if tooth decay occurs and is not corrected, including the following:

  • Chewing problems
  • Pain
  • Broken or damaged teeth
  • Pus or swelling around the tooth
  • Tooth abscess
  • Tooth loss
  • Shift in the positioning of your teeth following tooth loss
  • Weight loss or issues with getting proper nutrition because chewing and eating become painful

Preventing Tooth Decay

Although everyone is at some risk of developing tooth decay, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk, which include:

  • Brushing with a fluoride-containing toothpaste twice daily and flossing to clean between your teeth.
  • Use a fluoride mouth rinse, especially if you are at an increased risk of tooth decay
  • Schedule regular oral exams and professional teeth cleanings
  • Avoiding snacking throughout the day to reduce the production of bacteria in your mouth. When you do eat, try to eat healthy foods that increase saliva flow, like vegetables and fresh fruits and drink beverages like tea, unsweetened coffee and water to wash food particles away.
  • If you have an underlying health condition that increases your risk of tooth decay, you may be able to prevent tooth decay by using antibacterial mouth rinse. Fluoride can also be applied with custom trays and may be helpful in fighting tooth decay for patients who are not getting enough fluoride.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Even if you are not experiencing any symptoms of tooth decay, it is still important to schedule regular cleanings and exams biannually. If tooth decay is identified at this checkup, treatment options will be discussed, which may be as simple as lifestyle modifications, a scaling and root planning procedure, or a filling or crown if the tooth decay has progressed. If the tooth decay is more advanced and has spread to the pulp, a root canal may be necessary, and for extremely damaged teeth, the best treatment option may be a tooth extraction.

What is Tooth Decay?