Tooth decay is the destruction and erosion of the enamel of your teeth. The enamel is the hard, outer layer of your tooth. It is caused by a bacteria buildup on the surface of your teeth. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria. The bacteria in plaque creates acid that attacks your enamel causing damage to the outside of your teeth and eventually damage to the inside, too. Tooth decay can lead to cavities, infection, inflammation, and possibly to a necessary extraction of a tooth. Tooth decay is a progressive disease that can progress through six stages if not treated.
The initial stage of tooth decay begins when chalky white areas on the surface of the tooth appear due to the loss of calcium and build-up of plaque. Bacteria in the plaque then begin metabolizing sugars to turn it into acid. At this stage, tooth decay might still be reversible with the proper treatment.
The acid caused by the plaque buildup begins to attack the enamel. In this stage, the enamel starts to erode, and a lesion may form within the tooth. Once breakage in the enamel occurs, it can be treated, but it cannot be reversed.
If a cavity is left untreated, bacteria and acids will continue to dissolve the enamel and the lesion risks reaching the dentin. Once decay affects the dentin, pain may be felt. When enough of the tooth is weakened, the enamel collapses and a dental cavity is formed. At this point, a dental filling will most likely be required to restore the tooth and stop the decay from progressing.
At this stage, the inner area of the tooth, the pulp, can become inflamed and infected, which may cause quite a toothache. A root canal treatment is often required to stop the decay, and a crown may be used to restore the tooth. Stages 5 and 6 involve a dental abscess, which is a severe infection that may lead to tooth loss.
Tooth decay progresses until it is treated. To schedule a consultation with Austin Prosthodontics in Austin, TX, call 512-250-9444. We also proudly welcome patients from Cedar Park, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Leander, and all surrounding Texas communities.