Did you know that tooth decay grows? It starts off as a small white lesion and over time continues to grow until it becomes a cavity/hole. Caught early enough you can manage or even reverse an early lesion to prevent needing a filling. Left too long, and eventually the decay will eat through the entire tooth. This process can happen very quickly. Simply put, the longer you leave decay, the bigger and more expensive the problem gets.
There are 5 stages to the growth of decay,
Stage 1: Enamel Lesion
The first stage is the formation of white spots/ lesions on the tooth. This part of the tooth is demineralised and may appear chalky. Fortunately, tooth decay at this stage can be reversed and prevented. We can recommend the use of dental sealants, fluoride treatments, better oral hygiene practices, and other general treatments.
Stage 2: Enamel Decay
This is the stage where the tooth erodes from the bottom outwards. This means that the enamel will still be in a good position for the first half of stage 2. During this stage, if a cavity appears on the surface of the tooth, the only option will be dental filling.
Stage 3: Dentin Decay
If stage two is left untreated, bacteria will continue to wear down the enamel and cavity risks reaching the dentin. Also, you would become more conscious of the cavity because the level of the tooth pain will increase, and sharp pain may be experienced in the infected tooth. At this stage, you will possibly need a dental filling to restore the tooth and prevent the cavity from reaching the pulp.
Stage 4: Involves the Pulp
This is the stage where the pulp gets infected and thus ending up to kill the nerves as well as the blood vessel within the tooth. This is a serious stage, and correction will require root canal treatment.
Stage 5: Abscess Formation
This is the most serious stage. In this stage, the infection has spread to the tip of the root and has even spread to the surrounding tissues. In some instances, it can even affect the bone. Also, the gums and tongue tend to swell, and this may affect speech.
This is why we always recommend yearly dental examinations, so we can check and monitor for tooth decay.