Tooth decay is a very common dental problem. Our mouth naturally has some bacteria which in the presence of sugary food can lead to certain changes that damages the tooth which can eventually result in formation of cavities, abscesses and if let to progress tooth loss.
There are several stages to tooth decay which begins with the formation of dental plaque. Dental plaque is a sticky film formed on the teeth which consists of bacteria, food and saliva. When teeth are not cleaned regularly this plaque gradually begins to harden forming tartar, these are quite hard to remove and this protects the bacteria too.
This is the first stage of tooth decay. Our teeth are covered by a hard covering called the enamel which is made of minerals. As the enamel is exposed to the acids produced by the bacterial this covering is removed. This is seen as white spots on the teeth and this is initiation of tooth decay.
Decay of enamel
As the tooth continues to decay the enamel break down will further progress and the white spots will turn into a brown spot and as this continues small holes appear in the teeth this is what is called the cavities. At this stage a visit to the dentist is required to fill them.
Decaying of the dentin
The layer beneath the enamel is called the dentin, when compared to the enamel this is a much softer and are easily liable to the effects of the acid. In this layer lies the tube that leads to nerves of the tooth so when the decay reaches this stage you might feel some sensitivity in your teeth this happens when consuming hot or cold drinks.
Damage to the pulp
This is the innermost layers of the tooth; this part contains the blood vessels and the nerves. When the damage reaches the pulp, this area starts to swell and because there is no space for expansion, they will cause impingement on the nerve leading to tooth ache.
Formation of an abscess
As the pulp becomes affected the bacteria causes an infection after invading this area. Infection leads to an inflammatory response from the body which would eventually lead to formation of pus and abscess. An abscess formation can be really painful with pain travelling towards the jaw, other signs are fever, swollen gums and face and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
Treatment: Stage 1
This stage can be treated with fluoride treatment which would strengthen the enamel so it can withstand the acid.
Treatment: Stage 2
Here the cavities have to be filled, this is done with materials like ceramic, resin or amalgam
Treatment: Stage 3
Since the dentin is damaged crown is placed to cover the dentin.
Treatment: Stage 4
Root canal is performed, the pulp is removed, the cavity filled and a crown is placed.
Treatment: Stage 5
Root canal is performed and tooth is sealed in severe cases tooth is removed and antibiotics are given.