April 18, 2019
One of the amazing things about the human body is that it will usually send several warning messages for844 an existing problem. This phenomenon also applies to your oral health and the advancement of tooth decay. The key is to be able to recognize the signs and to have the resolve to take the necessary action. As a preventive aid, your dentist lists the 5 stages of bacteria growth so you can protect yourself.
Bacteria – The Great Nemeses of Oral Health
The primary enemies of your oral health are bacteria. Although they are always present, they grow exponentially when there are leftover food and beverage particles. Their main food of choice is sugar, so the greater the amount that is consumed, the more bacteria there can be expected to gather.
As these caustic microorganisms begin to feed and digest the sugars, they release acids that can contribute to tooth decay.
Stage #1 – White Spots
The first stage of tooth decay is for white spots to appear. This is the result of the sugars and acids attacking the enamel (the hard, outer layer) and causing a demineralization of the tooth.
By being proactive and visiting your dentist for preventive care, the problem can be identified in this stage, and the tooth can be restored without the need of any invasive measures.
Stage #2 – The Enamel Compromised
At this point, the enamel has started to erode as the decay is happening from the inside out and vice versa. If there is a convergence (called a cavity) and the enamel is finally penetrated, you may notice the first signs of sensitivity. To restore the tooth to normal, you will need to receive a traditional filling.
Stage #3 – The Dentin Penetrated
The enamel doesn’t contain any nerves, so there is no pain as long as the decay is in that area only. However, if the bacteria are allowed to travel to the underlying dentin, where there are nerves present, there will typically be bouts of discomfort.
At this point, having the tooth restored becomes even more important because the next stage requires more complex and costly care.
Stage #4 – The Pulp Infiltrated
If the cavity is allowed to reach the very sensitive pulp area, you can expect more intense pain. This is a critical time to receive care because the pulp contains the canals that provide the nutrients the tooth needs, and it is also where the nerve is housed.
By the time decay reaches this stage, a root canal will need to be performed to remove the decay and restore the tooth. The procedure involves the following steps:
- The process starts with the dentist drilling a small hole into the tooth to gain access to the pulp.
- The bacteria-infested tissue is removed, and the tooth is filled with a compound called gutta-percha.
- After the tooth is sealed, bite impressions are taken, and they are sent to a dental lab that will fabricate a replacement crown. Meanwhile, you’ll be fitted with a temporary fixture.
- When the permanent crown is ready, you’ll be invited back to your dentist’s office to have it placed.
Stage #5 – An Abscessed Tooth
Bacteria never stop moving, so if the decay isn’t addressed at the pulp level, it will travel farther, and it will eventually reach the tip of the tooth’s root. If allowed to exit, it will trigger an abscess to form, which is your body’s way of identifying a health threat and surrounding it to prevent it from doing more damage.
The problem is it can be very painful. Thus, it’s even more imperative at this point to take action. The viable options, depending on the condition of your tooth, are to either have a root canal procedure performed or to have the tooth extracted.
Prevention is Your Best Friend
When tooth decay is allowed to advance to the more severe stages, you won’t just feel pain in your mouth. It will also hurt your budget, as there will be a higher out-of-pocket cost for the complex care needed to restore your oral health.
One way to avoid such an inconvenience is to visit your dentist every six months for preventive care. By doing so, any budding issues can be stopped in their tracks before they cause big problems.
About the Author
Dr. C.J. Landry earned his dental degree from the LSU School of Dentistry. That launched him into a dental career that has spanned nearly 40 years. Dr. Landry provides top-notch preventive care at Lapalco Family Dental, and he can be reached for more information through his website.
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