The progression of tooth decay

Bacteria from the family streptococci are the main cause of tooth decay. Good daily oral hygiene is necessary as a preventative for tooth decay. Dentists  explain the progression of tooth decay and why it’s important to make and keep regular visits to your dentist; also as a preventative.

A carbohydrate, mainly sugars, along with poor daily oral hygiene enables cavity-causing bacteria to feed on and grow with no interference. Acid is produced when the bacteria metabolize sugars. The acid, in turn, eats away at the enamels surface, when this happens; it’s called ‘demineralization.’

When the tooth begins to appear to have white or brown areas, it’s in it’s first stage of decay and is usually only noticed by a dentist. Another clue of the first stage of decay is a shadowy area of less density on an x-ray. At this point, there’s a good chance of reversible damage.

Eventually, the acid will penetrate the enamel and a cavity will form. This could take up to three or four years. At this stage, the tooth can’t repair itself. You’re tooth may begin to ache and may be sensitive to hot or cold or sweet foods.

When the cavity begins to grow, it extends into the soft tissue of the pulp and causes an infection called pulpitis. The tissue begins to swell and the swollen tissue squeezes the blood vessels and the blood supply to the pulp is cut off and the pulp dies. There’s usually a considerable amount of pain at this pint.

The infection continues to spread to the root of the tooth and creates an inflamed pocket or ‘abscess.’ If the infection enters the bloodstream, it could cause a system-wide infection that may be life-threatening.

To prevent a tooth from getting to that point, be sure to have regular check-ups and get into a habit of good daily oral hygiene.