Call our office today at 619.421.2828

The 5 Stages of Tooth Decay

Few patients are aware of the 5 stages of tooth decay. But it's essential to understand these stages as you can not just prevent a tooth decay, but you can also reverse the disease.

Stage One: White Spots

In stage one, white spots begin to form just below the surface of the enamel. These white spots indicate the demineralization of the tooth. In this first stage of decay, you can use fluoride toothpaste to stop a cavity from penetrating through the enamel and reaching its second stage. The problem is, these white spots aren't always easy to spot. You can easily miss them because they’re likely to occur on your molars. A dental exam could easily catch that, so you should take care to come as recommended for your dental visits and to utilize fluoride toothpaste.

Stage Two: Enamel Decay

Stage two is the point of no return. Initially, the tooth erodes from the underside outward, so the outer enamel will still be intact for the first half of this second stage. Once the cavity breaks through the surface of the enamel, there is no turning back, and you will need to have the cavity corrected with a filling. Do the work in stage one to remove or prevent the formation of white spots.

Stage Three: Dentin Decay

If a cavity were to progress beyond stage two without you knowing, stage three will present itself with some pain. At this level, the cavity begins to eat away at the second level of tooth material that lies beneath the enamel: the dentin. A filling can still be used to prevent the cavity from reaching the tooth’s most critical component: the pulp.

Stage Four: Involvement of The Pulp

Once the cavity reaches the pulp, it’s going to hurt. A lot. So if you’ve unfortunately missed all the signs thus far, the pain in this stage will be undeniable. Stage four is serious, with a root canal as the only option of treatment at this stage, barring complete extraction. 

Stage Five: Abscess Formation

In the fifth and final stage of a cavity, the infection has reached the tip of the root and spread to surrounding tissues and possibly bone. Swelling along with severe pain are expected. In children (as well as adults), an abscess can be fatal if not dealt with immediately. At this point, you should immediately call our office and schedule an appointment for treatment-- either a root canal or extraction. 

Cavities don’t form overnight. In the early stages, regular visits can stall and reverse the progression of cavities. You can keep yourself far from the final stage of tooth decay with proper care and attention, so it really does pay to visit the dentist at pre-selected intervals. If you think you're in any one of the stages of tooth decay, even just stage one, go ahead and call out office at 619-421-2828 and schedule an appointment so that we can help you get back to a healthier state.