The Different Stages of Tooth Decay

The Different Stages of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is one of the leading causes of tooth pain — and many patients may not recognize the signs before the decay worsens. In fact, decay can often result in loss of teeth, completely, without proper dental care. Here are the different stages of tooth decay to be mindful of, according to Oral-B:

Stage 1: White Spots

Patients may confuse white spots on their teeth for signs of over-whitening, but these chalky areas are a sign of lost calcium and plaque build-up. Plaque contains bacteria, which metabolize sugars from food that you consume. This build-up causes enamel to weaken and deteriorate.

As the first sign of tooth decay, white spots may be reversible with the proper treatment from your dentist. You may consider a new brushing technique or applying a topical fluoride treatment.

Stage 2: Enamel Decay

At this stage, your enamel will start to break down underneath the surface. It may not be possible to restore the proper enamel and minerals of your teeth, which causes lesions to form. If the decay continues, your teeth could risk breaking, which is irreversible. If your tooth does break, you should see your dentist immediately.

Stage 3: Dentin Decay

The dentin is the part of your tooth that exists between your enamel and pulp. At stage three (if left untreated), bacteria will dissolve your enamel and the risk of lesions reaching the dentin of your teeth will heighten.

Once decay moves to the dentin, the pain will intensify in the infected teeth, and a dental filling will most likely be recommended to restore it.

Stage 4: Involvement of the Pulp

The pulp is the center of your teeth and it’s made up of tissue and cells that produce dentin. If tooth decay continues to this stage, the pulp of your teeth may begin to decay, causing extreme pain, ultimately killing the blood vessels and nerves in your teeth.

The best treatment at this stage is typically root canal therapy.

Stage 5: Abscess Formation

The fifth stage of tooth decay is the final and most painful stage. Once the infection reaches the root of your tooth, the conjoining bones in the area also risk infection. Your gums and tongue may also swell, affecting speech and leaving you at risk for other diseases.

The typical course of action at this stage is oral surgery.

Stage 6: Tooth Loss

If left untreated, a tooth that has decayed will eventually be lost without the ability to repair and must be extracted.

The best way to avoid any of the stages of tooth decay is to maintain proper dental hygiene. Regular cleaning and preventive care are essential to avoiding tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.


Excellent home care is important, too, but routine visits to the dentist are highly recommended. At Suri Dental Group, we keep our dentist and staff up-to-date on the latest in prevention techniques, materials, and cleaning procedures. Your oral health is our top priority. Contact us today to set up your next appointment.
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