Stages of Dental Caries
Dental caries are also referred to as tooth decay. They are a result of bacterial infection which utilize carbohydrates, starch and sugars which contain glucose, fructose and mainly sucrose (table sugar) and release acids (especially lactic acid). The acid causes demineralization of the inorganic outer surface of the tooth (enamel) which can be remineralized by saliva minerals. However, if the condition progresses and destructs the organic minerals then a cavity is formed. In this article, the stages of dental caries are discussed briefly.
The stages of dental caries
Dental caries formation from the initial stages of acid attacks to the final destructive process of the inner pulp cavity is as follows:
The first sign of dental caries are white chalky spots on the tooth surface due to the demineralization of the tooth enamel (loss of calcium). At this stage the tooth enamel weakens and it can be repaired through remineralization with the help of saliva minerals and topical fluoride.
If the process of demineralization outruns the natural process of remineralization, the lesion grows. The tooth enamel over time begins to break down under the surface where as the surface remains intact. However, once the decay breaks the enamel surface, the damage cannot be restored and is permanent.
If the condition is left untreated, the decay continues and damages dentin. When the bacteria damages and eats away enough of the sub-surface enamel, a cavity is formed. The decay should be cleaned and filled by a dentist.
The living part of the affected tooth is the pulp, it also becomes damaged if the cavity is not cleaned and filled properly. The pulp contains nerves and blood vessels, bacteria invade into the pulp cavity and infect the pulp causing the death of the nerves and blood vessels. To repair this condition root canal therapy is done.
Then the infection spreads forming a tooth abscess around the tip of the root. As the infection builds up inside the root canal of the infected tooth, the surrounding bone also gets infected and results in tooth pain which is consistent during night.
If the condition is not treated then the tooth becomes loose or needs to be extracted.
These are the stages of dental caries which can be treated at the early stages.