Tooth decay stages
When tooth decay first develops, it can look like a white spot on the tooth. This discolouration occurs when acid pulls minerals from your tooth enamel, causing it to soften.
Unfortunately, since early tooth decay might not have any symptoms, detection may only be possible during a dental check-up. That's why it's important to schedule regular dentist visits.
Before you develop a cavity, there's still a chance tooth decay can be stopped or even reversed at this early stage. To accomplish this, your dental professional might recommend:
- Making the tooth enamel stronger with a product such as fluoride varnish or high-fluoride toothpaste.
- Protecting the teeth with fissure sealants.
More advanced decay (the cavity stage)
If early-stage tooth decay isn't treated, the softened enamel starts to break down, resulting in a cavity. At this point, it might not be possible to reverse the damage to the tooth. However, your dental professional can help you prevent further decay with various treatments, so see them right away if you think you have a cavity.
Treatment will depend on the size and location of the cavity. Your dental professional might recommend a filling, which involves removing the decayed portion of the tooth and restoring the area with a filling material. Larger cavities, though, might require crowns, tooth-coloured or gold caps that completely cover the teeth.
If left untreated, your cavity can spread deeper into the dentine, the tooth layer beneath the enamel. Dentine is not as tough and durable as enamel, so decay can spread faster here. If the decay spreads even further, it can reach the pulp at the centre of the tooth, where all of the tooth’s nerves and blood vessels are.