The Four Stages of a Tooth Cavity

Posted on: 30 June 2021

Cavities don't happen overnight. The process takes time, and during this time, you can do something to stop the damage before it becomes too serious. If you can stop a cavity from reaching the nerve in a tooth, you can avoid a painful and costly dental infection.

Your first line of defence against cavities is oral hygiene. But knowing what a cavity looks like in its various stages is also helpful too. When you know what to look for, then you can spot tooth cavities before they get out of control.

Cavities occur in four stages.

Stage One: White or Brown Spots

Early on, before a cavity forms in a tooth, you may see white or brown spots on a tooth. These spots are enamel demineralization. Demineralization, or the gradual loss of tooth enamel, occurs when acidic foods and oral bacteria found in plaque break down tooth enamel. If you touch these areas with your tongue, they may feel sticky and rough.

Stage Two: Cavity Formation

Eventually, the acids from food and bacteria break through the enamel layer. A cavity then forms in the tooth. You may begin to experience some sensitivity at this point due to the damage to the enamel layer. Hot and cold temperatures will penetrate the damaged enamel and cause you discomfort.

Stage Three: Tooth Decay

Once a cavity forms, tooth decay sets in. Because the cavity in the enamel layer provides a hiding place for oral bacteria, oral bacteria will enter the cavity and multiply. Since oral bacteria produce acids as they eat the sugars in your foods, this acid makes the cavity larger. And because you will struggle to remove bacteria from inside a cavity, this stage will progress quite quickly.

At this point, you can see the damage in a tooth. If you don't receive dental treatment soon, the decay will reach the dentin layer, the layer that surrounds the tooth nerve.

Stage Four: Tooth Infection

When tooth decay reaches the dentin layer, it progresses more quickly than before. This is because the dentin layer is weaker than enamel, and it contains tubules that make dentin more porous than enamel. Once the decay reaches the nerve, a tooth infection will soon set in. This is when you'll begin to experience a toothache.

Tooth infections can be very painful. And if not treated, a tooth infection can lead to a dental abscess and facial swelling.

You can stop an early cavity by seeking treatment from a dentist in stage one. With the help of your dentist, you can reverse an early cavity and prevent serious damage to your teeth.