What are the stages of tooth decay?

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that more than 90% of the global population experience oral diseases at some point in their lives. With this in mind, regular dental checkups and treatment are vital. After all, we only have one heart, two kidneys, and 32 teeth.

To prevent dental and oral diseases, it’s crucial to visit the dentist twice a year. Neglecting problems can lead to serious dental diseases like pulpitis, gingivitis, caries, periodontitis, and more. Caries, or tooth decay, is perhaps the most common dental issue that affects everyone at some point.

Any health problem, including dental caries, is easier to treat during the early stages. Let’s examine the stages, symptoms, and treatment methods for caries.

Caries: Stages, Symptoms, and Treatment Methods

Tooth decay can progress through several stages, each with different symptoms and treatment methods.

1. Initial stage, or caries in the spot stage: A light or dark colored spot appears on the tooth enamel due to a lack of minerals such as calcium, fluorine, and phosphorus in the tissues. Remineralization therapy can help restore the calcium layer.

2. Superficial caries: This stage is characterized by damage to the tooth enamel, resulting in unevenness and hypersensitivity to tastes like sour, sweet, salty, or spicy, as well as hot or cold temperatures. Filling the tooth is necessary, and anesthesia may not be required since there is usually no pain at this stage.

3. Medium caries: At this stage, decay reaches the top layer of the tooth bone (dentin), causing a cavity that can trap food and increase sensitivity to heat. This period is usually accompanied by pain, and filling is typically performed under anesthesia.

4. Deep caries: This stage involves deeper penetration of the decay and more intense painful sensations. Pain is sharp and long-lasting without external stimuli. After an instrumental examination and X-ray diagnosis, the dentist removes the affected tissues and dental pulp under anesthesia, filling the cavity.

If caries is left untreated, the inflammatory process can reach the dental pulp, which is the soft tissue in the core of the tooth, as well as the periodontium, the root tissue. This stage is characterized by sharp pain, significant tooth decay, and tooth mobility.

The severity of the disease (the depth of caries) determines the treatment for caries. Therefore, it’s important to pay close attention to your teeth’s condition. The early stages of caries are more easily detected in the superficial areas of the tooth, even if slight color changes may be difficult to notice. Contact your dentist as soon as possible to receive timely treatment.

Types and Classifications of Caries

According to the acute state: Caries can be either chronic (secret) or acute.

Intensity: Based on the number of teeth affected, caries can be classified as single (affecting one tooth), multiple (affecting several teeth), or systemic (affecting the entire dentition).

Course of the Disease: Caries can be categorized as rapid, slow, or stabilized based on the progression of the disease.

Order: Caries can also be classified based on the order in which they occur. Primary caries are those that occur in untreated teeth, while secondary (recurrent) caries occur on a tooth that has previously undergone treatment.

As you can see, the types and classifications of caries are diverse. Only a dentist can correctly assess the situation, the degree of damage, and carry out appropriate treatment. Our responsibility is not to neglect oral health, maintaining timely dental check-ups.

Dental Care


When to Consult a Dentist

Consult a dentist if any of the following symptoms are present:

  • Toothache
  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding gums
  • Swelling or gingivitis
  • Plaque
  • Loose or moving teeth
  • Erupting wisdom teeth, etc.

As soon as you notice any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to consult a doctor, because early detection can easily solve your dental problems, preventing future surgical interventions.

Do not forget that your health is in your hands. So, take care of it!

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