How Dentists Recognize the Signs and Stages of Tooth Decay

Dentists are highly trained professionals who even partake in continuing education to ensure they are up-to-date on current dental information. This means they are more apt to notice signs and symptoms and what they mean, than the average person. This is why a regular checkup is so important. A dentist will be able to recognize when a problem is occurring, one of those being tooth decay. If caught early enough, the process can be stopped and even reversed. However, if left too long, the damage can be irreversible and cause issues for the rest of a patient’s life.

The Signs of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay can begin showing itself in multiple ways. For example, have you ever noticed strange white spots on your teeth? These could simply be from taking antibiotics or it could be the early stages of tooth decay due to loss of calcium and other nutrients vital to healthy teeth. Other signs of tooth decay can be red, swollen, or bleeding gums, sensitive teeth, headaches resulting from your teeth, toothaches, dark spots appearing on your teeth, strange taste in your mouth, or bad breath. Many of these could be linked to other issues as well and only a professional will be able to tell you all the details that may be occurring with your oral health.

Stages of Tooth Decay

Stage 1 – White spots begin appearing on your teeth. Yes, your teeth are already white however, this is a noticeably different shade of white that will make the spots noticeable. This is when tooth enamel is beginning to deteriorate.

Stage 2 – The enamel on your teeth begin to decay which can cause cracks to appear in your teeth or even lesions to appear beneath the surface. Of course, much of this won’t be noticed by a patient and would only be noticed by a professional. If a patient’s tooth cracks and they notice, they should set an appointment up right away.

Stage 3 – This is when dentin decay occurs. This can result in cavities appearing and intense pain may begin in the affected area. This is the stage where fillings may be required to fix the damage already done.

Stage 4 – The decay has reached the pulp by this point which results in a severe toothache and most like a root canal will need to be performed. This is when the pulp of a tooth is infected and must be removed to save the natural tooth. The pulp is no longer necessary when a person’s adult teeth are fully grown in. Therefore, it’s safe to remove the pulp of the tooth without further issue.

Stage 5 – This is when an abscess may appear. The infection has reached the tip of the root and causes an intense amount of pain Tongue swelling can occur and patients are at risk for many other diseases and issues at this point.

Stage 6 – At this point, there is nothing that can be done except extract the tooth. A tooth replacement will need to be put in its place.

The best way to steer clear from tooth decay is to have a good daily routine for oral hygiene. Speak with your dental professional about your oral health and if you’re on track. They will make sure you’re using all the right tools and will even guide you into better decisions, if need be, for your overall health.




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Dr. Nguyen
Dr. Nguyen

Dr. Nguyen is committed to providing high-quality dentistry using state-of-the-art equipment to help you achieve improved oral health and the beautiful smile you deserve.

Dr. Nguyen has served on the Virginia Board of Dentistry and has many achievements such as: Invisalign Premier and Teen Provider, Pre-Fellow with Academy of General Dentistry, Graduate of Aesthetic Continuum, Engel Institute for Dental Implant Training, WaveOne Endodontic Training, HD President’s Club.

Dr. Nguyen enjoys spending time with his wife and three daughters, staying active in the gym, and trying out new restaurants.  When he isn’t at work, you can find him playing basketball, tennis, football, or hiking.

“I want to make you feel right at home, exceed your expectations, and provide an amazing experience!”