Tooth Decay Stages: Solve Dental Concerns for Better Health Tooth Decay Stages: Solve Dental Concerns for Better Health
Tooth Decay Stages: Solve Dental Concerns for Better Health

Tooth Decay Stages: Solve Dental Concerns for Better Health

Jul 25,2023

Tooth decay is the damage which happens to your teeth and can probably lead to dental abscesses, cavities or tooth loss. It is caused due to activity of certain species of bacteria which stay in plaque. The bacteria in plaque may convert sugars present in food into acids. When plaque builds up in due course, the acids start to cause damage to your teeth. So, good dental hygiene is necessary for the prevention of tooth decay.

Tooth decay happens in various stages. We will discover all these stages, discuss to treat the problem of tooth decay and give effective tips on how to avoid it from taking place.

5 Stages of tooth decay

Dental plaque is essential to the process of tooth decay. Plaque is a sticky and colourless film which covers your teeth surface. It is usually made of food particles, bacteria and saliva.

When you do not clean teeth regularly, the plaque may start to accumulate. It may harden in due course by forming something known as tartar. The presence of tartar can protect bacteria which makes them more difficult to remove.

You will find five stages of tooth decay. They are the following:

Stage 1: Initial demineralization

The outer layer of teeth is made of a kind of tissue known as enamel. The tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in your body which is made of minerals. But when a tooth gets exposed to acids produced by bacteria and plaque, the enamel starts losing these minerals. When this takes place, you may find white spot on one of your teeth. Area of mineral loss is initial sign of tooth decay.

Stage 2: Enamel decay

When the process of tooth decay continues, the enamel will break down further. You may notice a white spot on the tooth becomes dark to brownish colour. The small holes in your teeth known as cavities or caries may form when the tooth enamel becomes weak. The cavities will have to be filled by emergency dentist, according to your requirement.   

Stage 3: Dentin decay

Dentin is the tissue which remains behind the tooth enamel. It is softer than enamel by making it more sensitive to damage from acid. Due to this, tooth decay proceeds quickly when it reaches the dentin.

Dentin has tubes that lead to the tooth nerves and when the dentin gets affected by tooth decay, you might experience tooth sensitivity. You may notice this when you have hot or cold foods or drinks.

Stage 4: Damage to the pulp

The pulp is inmost layer of your tooth which includes blood vessels and nerves to keep tooth healthy. The nerves present in the pulp give sensation to your tooth.

When there is some damage to the pulp, it may get irritated and begin to swell. As the surrounding tissues in the tooth cannot expand to accommodate this swelling, there may be pressure on the nerves causing pain.

Stage 5: Abscess

When tooth decay advances into the pulp, the bacteria may attack and can be the reason for an infection. The increased inflammation in the tooth can form a pocket of pus at the bottom of your tooth known as an abscess.

Tooth abscesses might occur due to extreme pain which may radiate into the jaw. Other symptoms that are present include – swelling of the face, jaw, gums and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

A tooth abscess will need instant treatment as the infection may spread into the jaw bone and other areas of your head and neck. There are some cases when the treatment might involve removing your affected tooth.


The treatment suggested for tooth decay may depend on its stage. Take a quick look at different treatment options based on the progression of your tooth decay.

Initial demineralization

This is the earliest stage of dental decay to be reversed before there is permanent damage. This may be attained by treating the teeth with fluoride toothpaste. You can get a fluoride treatment at your dentist’s office. It is generally applied to your teeth in the form of varnish or gel. Fluoride works for strengthening the tooth enamel which makes it highly resistant to the acids produced by bacteria and plaque.

Enamel decay

When tooth decay enters this stage, there are cavities present. Fillings can be used for the treatment of mouth cavities. When giving a filling, the dentist uses a tool for eliminating any areas of tooth decay. Then they will fill the hole with a material like ceramic, dental amalgam or resin. This material is of same color like your natural tooth.

Dentin decay

As the dentin is soft than the enamel, tooth decay moves at a quick rate on reaching this stage. When it is detected at an early stage, the dentin decay can be treated with the help of a filling. There are advanced cases when placing a dental crown might be needed. A dental crown is a covering for the top part of your tooth above the gums. The decayed area gets removed before placing the crown. Some healthy tooth tissue might be removed to ensure the crown fits properly to the tooth.

Damage to pulp

When tooth decay reaches the pulp, you will usually require a root canal where damaged pulp gets removed. The tooth cavity will then be cleaned and filled in for placing a crown on your affected tooth.

Dental abscess

If an abscess has formed in the tooth, then the dentist will possibly perform a root canal for removing the infection and sealing the tooth. The affected tooth may have to be removed completely in extreme cases. There are antibiotics prescribed for treating an abscess and medications can help to kill bacteria.


It is important to practice and maintain good dental hygiene habits for the prevention of tooth decay. Here we discuss some strategies you may implement to prevent damage to your teeth from decay.

  • Visit your dentist regularly Your dentist will help to detect and treat tooth decay before it becomes worse. Make sure you see a dentist regularly for performing routine teeth cleanings and oral examinations.
  • Brush teeth twice a day It is suggested that you brush teeth at least two times in a day after taking meals. Use fluorinated toothpaste to keep strong teeth and healthy gums.
  • Restrict the intake of sweets You should try not to consume foods or drinks that have high amount of sugar. Some examples are – soft drinks, cookies and candies.
  • Drink water from the tap Tap water has fluoride in it which can keep teeth enamel strong and protect it from further decay.
  • Do not take snacks in excess amount You should restrict the intake of snacks in between meals as this may give bacteria in your mouth and more sugar to convert into acids.
  • Ask about sealants Sealants are thin plastic coating being applied to the top of your back teeth or molars. They are important at the time of chewing though food particles may get trapped in their grooves. A sealant can cover the surface of molar by preventing this from taking place.

When you should visit a dentist

When tooth decay is in the early stages, you might not experience any symptoms. So, it is important to go for routine visits to your dentist. He can detect and address early stages of decay before they may become worse.

Book an appointment with the dentist when you suffer from the problem of tooth pain, swelling in or around your mouth or tooth sensitivity. These are signs of later stages of tooth decay or other dental condition which requires proper attention.

Tooth decay is a damage which affects your teeth due to the presence of bacteria and plaque. The bacteria can convert sugar from your food into acids which damage your teeth. There are five stages of tooth decay and though the earliest stage is reversible, the later stages may lead to permanent damage to your affected tooth.

The treatment for tooth decay will depend on the stage it is in. Examples of possible treatments include –fillings, fluoride treatments and root canals. There are steps you may take to prevent tooth decay. Some of these are – brushing teeth two times in a day, restricting the intake of sweet foods and seeing a dentist for your routine checkups. If needed, talk to a dental hygienist who will give effective tips on how you can maintain better oral health and hygiene.