No one likes to hear that they have a cavity. Tooth decay can wreak havoc on your oral health if not treated in a timely manner. Without intervention, cavities are progressive. In other words, they grow. Like many other diseases and health conditions, it is important to detect cavities at their earliest and most treatable stage. Here’s a closer look at what cavities are and how they are categorized in stages.
What are cavities exactly? In simplest terms, a cavity is a hole in the tooth. Cavities form when oral bacteria feed on the sugars and carbohydrates from your food or drink. In the process, these bacteria acids that can eat away at the enamel (outer layer) of your teeth. This is why daily brushing and flossing is so important in preventing tooth decay, as it is the best way to eliminate sugars and carbs from lingering on your teeth and becoming food for the bacteria in your mouth.
Stage 1 cavities are early cavities, and ones that do not typically cause any pain. They may show up on a dental x-ray or be visible to your dentist as a small gray spot or area of missing enamel. At this early stage, the decay has not reached past the outer tooth layer and is easily repaired.
If left alone, a stage 1 cavity can quickly progress to stage 2, at which point it grows deeper and enters the next layer of your tooth, called the dentin layer. Stage 2 cavities can cause pain and make the tooth more vulnerable to damage.
It is very rare not to feel a stage 3 cavity, as this indicates decay that now invading the inner nerves or pulp of the tooth. Stage 3 cavities need to be treated right away to avoid bacterial infection of the tooth pulp and significant pain and swelling.
A stage 4 cavity has fully destroyed the enamel and dentin layer of a tooth and caused damage to the tooth pulp. At this stage, the tooth can be hard to restore without a root canal and dental crown.
If left alone, a stage 4 cavity can cause serious consequences. Untreated decay can not only result in tooth loss or a dental abscess, but the infection can also enter the bloodstream and be life-threatening in severe cases.
Cavities are nothing to take lightly. However, when detected at their early stages, we can treat cavities very easily and quickly. The best way to ensure your tooth decay is not progressing into serious stages is to visit your dentist every six months. Call Dr. Mitzi Morris today to book your cavity prevention visit this year.