What Stage Is Your Tooth Decay?

by Dr. Vareldzis

You have heard dentists (and your parents) tell you how important it is to brush and floss your teeth.

You should be doing both of these things every day in addition to your routine checkups at the dentist office each year. If you live in or near Medford, OR, we would welcome you to visit Hillcrest Family Dentistry for your oral care needs.

You might not know that 92 percent of adults will have at least one cavity between the ages of 20 and 64, according to national health experts. That goes up slightly to 93 percent for adults 65 and older.

While we hope you never have a cavity, we also hope that you will act quickly if you do get one. To help you understand why, here is a short overview of what can happen as tooth decay spreads through a tooth. We will also explain how restorative dentistry can fix the issues that arise.

Stage One: Dental Filling

Cavities are caused by bacteria that live inside your mouth. The bacteria multiply constantly, which is why daily brushing and flossing is needed to keep them under control.

If you give bacteria an opportunity, they will form plaque a sticky film that forms on your teeth. This keeps the bacteria close to the tooth so it can start to eat into the enamel (the outer layer of your tooth).

This is the start of tooth decay. If the bacteria is able to eat a hole in your teeth, then you have a cavity. With time, your tooth will start to change colors where the decay has taken hold.

If you act quickly, we can treat this problem with a dental filling.

This process starts when we remove the decay from your tooth. At our practice, we use white fillings for our patients. This kind of filling is made of a composite resin that closely matches the color of teeth.

This makes is much less obvious than gold or amalgam fillings. We don’t think having a cavity should ruin your smile.

Stage Two: Dental Crown

Sometimes patients don’t recognize that a cavity is forming either because they aren’t sure what it is or because it’s in a location that’s hard to see. If we are being completely honest, sometimes patients don’t come out of stubbornness, too.

Regardless of the reason for their delay, we may not be able to fix your problem with a filling if the decay has spread too far in your tooth.

When that happens, our next options is a dental crown. Instead of filling the hole in your teeth, we will remove the outer layer to create an abutment to support the crown. You also will want to know that we offer CEREC crown. In most cases, we can make your dental crown in our office and bond it to your tooth in a single visit.

Stage Three: Root Canal Treatment

So, let’s say you have ignored the hole in your tooth and the discoloration. You figure you don’t need to do anything as long as it doesn’t hurt.

Well, it will start to hurt when the bacteria eats its way to the center of your tooth and reaches the soft connective tissue called pulp. Infected pulp can become inflamed. At the same time, you will be exposing the nerves and blood vessels inside your tooth.

You may notice your tooth is more sensitive to cold and hot foods and drinks. You may notice it hurts to bite and chew with that tooth. You may just notice that the tooth hurts.

At this point, a dental crown will not be enough to solve the problem. You will need a root canal treatment.

This means removing the infected pulp, the nerves, and the blood vessels. Cleaning the tooth and refilling it with as special material to reduce your risk of another infection, and sealing the tooth with a crown or filling.

Stage Four: Lost Tooth

If for some reason, you toughed out the pain in your tooth, you have only let your problem become worse. The decay has likely killed your tooth, and now you are at risk of it spreading to other parts of your mouth.

At this point, you will need to have the tooth extracted. At the same, we would recommend replacing it with a dental implant and a dental crown as soon as possible.

What Stage Will You Get Help?

You want to keep your teeth. The team at Hillcrest Family Dentistry wants you to keep them, too.

Call 541-930-8036 or use our online form to request an appointment for a routine cleaning or to treat your tooth decay.