The Three “S” Of Tooth Decay: Symptoms, Stages And Solutions


Dental care looks and feels so simple to carry out that most times we tend to take  it for granted and hence ignore the subtle signs of tooth decay it is showing us due to our inconsistency in dental hygiene like not brushing your teeth regularly. We tend to react and visit the dentist when we feel pains, for some intense pain. There are majorly five stages of tooth decay, come along as we guide you through the three “s” of tooth decay stages, signs, symptoms and solutions in each stage.

First Stage : Mineral Erosion

Here, you begin to see the negative effect of consumption  of sugars and acids on our teeth, this is achieved by attacking the tooth enamel, it erodes the minerals which forms the hardness of the tooth.One major mineral in this case is calcium and the signs include : chalk like whitish spots on the tooth which can be stained with time.

Solutions at this stage:

at this first stage of tooth decay, the situation can be remedied and reversed through the help of constant oral hygiene,  fluoride treatments, prescription toothpastes, and the minerals that are present in your saliva, as well as diet change.Add dairy food to your diet such as milk, cheese and food high in calcium content.Stay away from food that erodes minerals.

Second Stage : Enamel Decay

The surface enamel continues to erode, the decay breaks through the surface enamel.You may need a dental filling to stop the bacterial advancement and restore a protective layer. You may experience some sensitivity or pain at this point. It is also possible that you may not feel anything at all.

Do not wait to feel pain, if you do, it means more damage has been done. It’s economical to correct things at the early stages.

Solutions at this stage: 

A visit to dentist will reveal a lot , get a filling, if recommended. Don’t wait and let the decay increase the area of damage and move deeper into the tooth. At this point the lesion isn’t very large and a composite filling will usually solve the problem.

Third Stage: Dentin Decay

At this level of cavity progression, tooth decay starts to hurt. This is because the decay has gained access to the nerves (They’re like slip-n-slides right to the heart of your tooth). While the decay is going deeper into that tooth it’s also rapidly destroying the softer dentin layer below the enamel.

Solutions at this stage: 

To halt the bacterial advancement, a larger restoration will typically be needed. This will keep the decay from getting to pulp, which is the vital part of the tooth. The type of restoration you need at this point can vary. This is dependent on how long the bacteria has gone unchecked & how much damage it has done.

A dentist may use a larger composite filling, or an inlay (this is not common since insurances  down-grade& pay for fillings. But patients who pay cash will reap the benefits of an inlay).

If your cavity is too large for those types of restorations (meaning more tooth structure needed to be removed and repaired), then it will require a major restoration. Such as an onlay which conserves more natural tooth structure than a crown, or a dental crown which is basically a rebuild of the entire tooth structure above the gums.

Fourth Stage: Decay of the Pulp

At this stage, you will feel the pains of rot. You will know something is wrong, and if it has gotten this far, you’re going to need a root canal to clean out the bacterial infection. This is because pus is irritating the tissues, making the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue in the pulp die.

Solutions at this stage: 

A visit to the dentist is important and recommended. Depending on the severity of the pulp damage your dentist may even refer you to a root canal specialist (an endodontist). The root canal specialist will clear out the infection that is in the tooth root. After the root canal treatment is preformed, after a week or more you’ll return for a follow-up. If the tooth is healing fine then you’ll be cleared to return to the dentist.

Seeing your dentist after a root canal is a must, as they will permanently seal the canal and restore the part of your crown that was damaged.

Just like drug abuse, complete dosage of drugs is advised, same here, do not assume because you do not feel pain anymore, you do not complete treatment. if you do this, you will end up needing another root canal!

 Fifth Stage: Abscess Formation

This is the final stage in tooth decay. The pulp is damaged, decaying pulp remnants and bacteria causes an infection at the tip of the tooth’s root. Thus, a pus-filled pocket forms.

The infection impacts the rest of the tissues surrounding the pulp and bone material. There’s typically going to be swelling and lots of pain. The side of your face by the abscess may even be swollen.

What is weird about this stage is that is you might not feel any pain until things get really rout of hand and then the pain becomes intense. However, regular trips to the dentist should catch the abscess in radiographs which means you can take action before you experience any real pain.

Solutions at this stage: 

A root canal  is highly recommended(in order to try and save the tooth), or you might need have surgery to open the abscess and drain it. They both need antibiotics. If the tooth cannot be saved, then you might have to have the tooth extracted.

Missing tooth come with their own set of progressive issues so this should try to be avoided if possible. However, if the tooth is lost, then a dental implant could be a great option to replace it.


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