Tooth decay often seems like it shows up out of nowhere. You can feel perfectly fine for months and then suddenly notice a cavity deep inside of your tooth. However, tooth decay is actually a very gradual process. It may not be visible or cause discomfort, but it could be happening inside of your mouth at any time. So how does tooth decay develop? Lovett Dental Jersey Village can help you find the answer to this question and improve your oral health to prevent cavities and tooth loss.
The Underlying Cause of Tooth Decay
All tooth decay gets its start due to mineral loss and bacteria. The surface of the teeth is usually protected by a hard layer of enamel, made up of minerals like calcium. High acid levels in the mouth constantly leach out these minerals, and then, they are naturally restored by saliva. However, if this balance gets thrown off, you can end up with spots where the enamel is softer due to mineral loss.
One of the main things that can throw off this balance inside your mouth is bacteria. There are all sorts of bacteria in the mouth, some are harmful and some are helpful. Bad bacteria can grow more easily when protective enamel is weak. When harmful bacteria flourish, they produce acidic byproducts that wear away at teeth. This increased amount of damaged tissue gives bacteria more space to grow, further weakening teeth in a cycle of decay.
The Six Stages of Decay
Dental decay has six stages based on how far it has progressed. The first stage is when white spots appear. These are white areas on the tooth that occur when enamel first starts deteriorating due to demineralization. If you do not do anything at this stage, it can progress to stage two, where enamel decays. In stage three of tooth decay, bacteria have managed to dissolve enough enamel to reach the soft dentin underneath. This is typically the stage when you start feeling pain.
Though most people address tooth decay at the third stage, it can progress to the fourth, where the decay reaches the pulp at the center of the tooth. This is the living tissue that makes up the dentin and supplies blood to the tooth. Infections here are very painful and require root canal therapy to fix. By stage five, the infection has spread to the root of the tooth, causing a dental abscess to form. This is a very dangerous stage where the abscess can spread to the jaw bone and gums, harming other tissues in the mouth. At stage six, the tooth is so damaged that you lose it entirely.
What You Can Do to Stop Tooth Decay
The most important thing you can do to prevent tooth decay from developing is to take good care of your teeth. Brush your teeth two times a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride. Additionally, floss once a day. To reduce the risk of tooth demineralization, eat acidic and sugary foods sparingly, and rinse your mouth out with water afterward.
Since it is important to halt decay as soon as possible, schedule regular dental cleanings and exams so that your Lovett Dental Jersey Village dentist can let you know about potential weak spots. If you do have any decay, treat it promptly before it gets worse. In the earlier stages, you may just need an extra-strength toothpaste to add more minerals to the teeth. However, in the later stages, you may need fillings or even oral surgery.
Treat Tooth Decay Now at Lovett Dental Jersey Village
Regular visits to your dentist can help keep teeth clean and treat decay before it worsens. Lovett Dental Jersey Village provides regular dental cleanings, tooth fillings, and root canals to treat or prevent tooth decay. We also offer a variety of other dental services, including tooth implants, dental crowns and bridges, and emergency dental services. Call Lovett Dental Jersey Village at 281-890-5002 to hear more about our services.