Livonia General Dentist: The Stages of Tooth Decay

cavity detectionNot all patients who exhibit tooth decay require a dental filling or root canal therapy. When caught and treated in its early stages, tooth decay can often be reversed before a cavity has the chance to develop. Tooth decay begins when oral bacteria produce acid to destroy your teeth’s protective layer of enamel. Once compromised, enamel becomes ineffective, and bacteria can slip past it to infect the tooth’s main structure. Left untreated, tooth decay and cavities can consume your tooth, rendering it useless. With years of experience as a dedicated Livonia general dentist, Dr. Stewart can expertly restore your afflicted tooth, whether it’s just beginning to show signs of decay, or the infection is severe enough to require a tooth extraction.  

Enamel Erosion (Calcium Deficiency)

Enamel erosion is the process of bacterial acid weakening your teeth’s protective layer and depleting them of calcium and other minerals, which enamel requires to remain strong. As tooth enamel erodes, chalky white or yellowish spots can develop on its surface. As the first stage of tooth decay, enamel erosion can be reversed with fluoride treatments to strengthen enamel and improved hygiene to neutralize bacteria and acid.

Decaying Dentin

After acid eats holes in your tooth’s enamel, bacteria can easily access to the tooth’s more vulnerable main structure, dentin. Toothaches often develop as exposed dentin becomes sensitive to bacteria, food debris, and hot and cold temperatures. At this stage, Dr. Stewart can treat the tooth by removing the infected structure, cleaning away lingering bacteria, and placing a tooth-colored dental filling to seal the cavity and reinforce the tooth.

Abscess Formation (Pulp Death)

In spite of tooth sensitivity, many patients neglect or postpone treatment until the infection passes dentin and reaches the nerves and blood vessels at the tooth’s center—known as the tooth’s pulp. When the living tissues are consumed by the infection, pus develops and the nerves and blood vessels can die. Root canal therapy is needed to save the tooth and stop the spread of infection at this point. If an abscess (pocket of infected pus) develops at the tip of the tooth’s root, it can damage the tooth and surrounding jawbone, causing intense discomfort and possibly requiring a tooth extraction.

About James Stewart, DDS:

Our philosophy is that excellent dental begins with developing a relationship with the patient. James Steward, DDS, and our experienced staff proudly serve patients from Livonia, Farmington Hills, Plymouth, Northville, Dearborn Heights, Garden City, and all surrounding communities. To schedule an appointment, call our office today at (734) 425-4400.